Winners and losers stemming from Justin Verlander's influential two-year deal with Mets
Forget the musical chairs of superstar shortstops, or the fate of the American League's single-season home run leader. Fewer transactions could have had as many wide-ranging tremors as Justin Verlander's defection to the New York Mets on a two-year, $86.6 million contract.
The pact, agreed to Monday in the opening hours of the MLB Winter Meetings, takes a future Hall of Famer, one of the game's most dominant and reliable arms, off the market less than 72 hours after the Mets lost Jacob deGrom to the Texas Rangers. And now, the starting pitching market is already looking thin — with a plethora of contenders still aiming to shore up their rotations.
A look at the five biggest winners and losers after Verlander jumped to the National League for the first time in his 17-season career:
BRING ON THE CHAOS: MLB Winter Meetings return with prospect of pandemonium
TEXAS-SIZED DEAL: Rangers sign Jacob deGrom to five-year, $185 million contract
MLB SUPERPOWERS: Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, Red Sox will shape free agency
Mets: They stick the landing
Pour some truth serum into a few cups in Flushing, and this outcome — deGrom to the AL, Verlander to Citi Field — might have been what most Mets brass and supporters rooted for all along. Certainly, deGrom was a New York institution, winning a pair of Cy Young Awards and redefining how dominant a starting pitcher can be — heck, he upped his strikeouts per nine innings from 9.2 as a rookie in 2014 to 14.3 each of the past two seasons.
But that dominance came over just 26 starts in two seasons as deGrom battled forearm and scapula injuries. Guaranteeing him $185 million over five years will come with plenty of winces every time deGrom's high-torque delivery yields another 102-mph heater.
Instead, Verlander and old Detroit Tigers co-ace Max Scherzer are again joined at the hip, each set to earn $43.3 million the next two seasons. The Mets retain their 1-2 punch — and for $99 million less in guaranteed money.
Carlos Rodon: Back up the truck
It got real lonely quickly at the top of the pitching market.
And now, lefty Carlos Rodon will find himself in great demand after Verlander and deGrom are off the board. Regardless where he ends up earning his paycheck, future generations of Rodons can certainly thank the Rangers for overturning the market and leaving plenty of win-now teams — the Dodgers and Yankees, most notably — starved for a dominant arm. Now, Rodon can dream big, perhaps for a deal of five or even six years and certainly one that exceeds $150 million.
It is a little insane, given that Rodon’s 178 innings pitched last year were his most since 2016, and he pitched a combined 42 1/3 innings between 2019-20. But everything is timing, right? And Rodon picked the perfect year to stay healthy and trigger a clause allowing him to opt out of a two-year deal with San Francisco after exceeding 110 innings. Speaking of timing…
Second-tier starters: Ace money awaits
If Rodon is the biggest winner, then the next level of arms — former Met Chris Bassitt and former Yankee Jameson Taillon leading the way — will draft very nicely behind him. The overheated market is very bad news for emerging teams like the Orioles and Twins, who dreamt of dabbling in the Rodon market and would have liked to snag a Bassitt or Taillon for something resembling the three years and $39 million that Tyler Anderson received from the Angels.
Those dreams are probably over.
The Mets still need at least two starters. The Dodgers need to buy some time and solidity in their rotation. The Yankees, out of the Verlander sweepstakes, can go any number of directions, including a concerted run at Rodon.
Count on Bassitt getting a fourth guaranteed year, Taillon exceeding expectations for a pitcher with a two-Tommy John history and Nathan Eovaldi, Taijuan Walker and others to suddenly soar in popularity.
Astros: A security blanket, gone
Owner-turned-GM Jim Crane gave several quiet indications that the club would move on from Verlander, and from a pure positional need, it makes sense. The Astros can report to West Palm Beach in February with Framber Valdez their No. 1 starter, Jose Urquidy their No. 5 and a handful of dazzling youngsters, led by Hunter Brown, ready to step in.
Yet will they miss the steady hand of a future Hall of Famer, whose 2017 arrival via trade set the franchise on course for six consecutive ALCS appearances?
In some ways, not at all. The Astros reached the 2021 World Series without Verlander, who was recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery. It’s just that suddenly, they need their arms on hand to perform as they project.
For Valdez to maintain his focus in every start. For Lance McCullers Jr. to stay healthy. For Cristian Javier to touch the sixth inning every fifth day and extend his dominance across close to 200 innings.
It can be done. But a huge safety net is gone — along with 175 Cy Young-caliber innings.
Yankees: Now what?
Oh, they have an ace. Still, each time they hand the ball to Gerrit Cole in October, there's no guarantee he'll shut the opponent down, even for $324 million guaranteed. He badly needs a postseason running mate and Verlander would have fit in perfectly.
Now, the $300 million question: Can the Yankees re-sign Judge and also add Rodon? That would show a level of commitment to living far beyond the luxury tax that owner Hal Steinbrenner has not displayed in several years. Then again, coming up short in the playoffs with Luis Severino and Nestor Cortes hasn’t been pleasant, either.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Justin Verlander signs with Mets: Biggest winners and losers from deal