Might Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, teammates with the Tigers from 2011 to 2014, be headed for a reunion?
It is at least a possibility.
The Mets, dealing with several holes in their rotation, including the possible loss of ace right-hander Jacob deGrom, spoke with Verlander by Zoom last week, according to major-league sources.
Verlander, the unanimous 2022 American League Cy Young winner, is a free agent. So are deGrom and two other members of the Mets’ 2022 rotation, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker. The Mets met last week with Japanese right-hander Kodai Senga, and have been in contact with another free agent, Jameson Taillon, sources say.
The New York Post reported Saturday that the Mets are “considering” Verlander. The discussions between the parties indicate that the team’s interest in Verlander is more than simply theoretical. The Post, however, also reported the Mets believe they will re-sign deGrom if their offer to him is close to or equal to the others he receives.
For the Mets, the casting of a wide net is due diligence and hardly a surprise. Carlos Rodón, another top free agent, likely is on their potential target list as well. The team’s rotation currently consists of Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco and the less established Tylor Megill, David Peterson and Elieser Hernandez, whom the team acquired in a trade from the Marlins on Friday.
Verlander, obviously, is not only on the Mets’ radar. The World Series champion Astros want him back. The Dodgers and possibly the Yankees are among the other clubs that view him as an attractive short-term, high-dollar investment. Verlander was ineligible for a qualifying offer after receiving one last season, so any team that signs him would avoid forfeiting draft picks and international bonus pool space. (Rodón received a qualifying offer, and the Mets extended such offers to deGrom, Bassitt and Brandon Nimmo, qualifying for compensation if they depart).
A reunion of Verlander with Scherzer would give the Mets two three-time Cy Young winners, both of whom became World Series champions after leaving the Tigers, Scherzer with the Nationals in 2019, Verlander with the Astros in 2017 and 2022. Verlander also would provide the Mets with an adequate buffer at the top of the rotation if they lose deGrom, a two-time Cy Young winner.
The caveat: Verlander turns 40 in February, Scherzer 39 in July. Verlander is expected to command a multi-year contract with an average salary in the range of Scherzer’s record $43.3 million. The Mets might be reluctant to pay a combined $80 million-plus for two pitchers who have combined for more than 6,000 career innings, including the postseason. Scherzer was on the injured list twice last season because of left-oblique issues, and his 145 1/3 innings were his lowest total for a full season.
Then again, deGrom turns 35 in June, likely will cost more than Verlander and also is not without risk. When healthy, deGrom is the game’s most dominant pitcher. A variety of injuries, however, limited him to 156 1/3 innings the past two seasons. He produced a 3.07 ERA in 12 starts, including one in the postseason, after coming off the IL on Aug. 2. His strikeout rate was an astonishing 42.7 percent. His walk rate was only 3.3 percent.
Verlander had a more complete season, returning from Tommy John surgery to produce a major-league-best 1.75 ERA in 175 innings. The Astros used him carefully, knowing he had missed virtually all of the previous two campaigns. Verlander made 23 of his 28 starts on five or more days rest. He also was out with an injured right calf from Aug. 30 to Sept. 16. But he returned to produce a 1.17 ERA in his final four regular-season starts, then cap off an inconsistent postseason with his first World Series victory.
For the Mets and any other team pursuing deGrom, he looms as a worthy alternative.
(Photo: Carmen Mandato / Getty Images)