The New York Mets found their next star pitcher, signing Justin Verlander on Monday. The deal is reportedly for two years and $86 million, making it the largest annual salary in MLB history.
The deal comes days after former ace Jacob deGrom inked a five-year, $185 million deal with the Texas Rangers.
Justin Verlander’s deal with the Mets is for two years and $86 million, per source. It includes a vesting third-year option. After losing Jacob deGrom, the Mets replace him with the American League Cy Young Award winner, who will be paired atop their rotation with Max Scherzer.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 5, 2022
There is also a vesting option for 2025, meaning Verlander will stay under contract in 2025 if he meets certain performance-based incentives. Neither the salary for 2025, nor the incentives needed to reach it were made public at the time of signing.
After a disappointing end to Verlander's HOF-worthy tenure with the Tigers, where he had an ERA north of 3.50 from 2013 to the first half of the 2017 campaign, he enjoyed a resurgence with the Astros. Verlander was an integral part of the Astros 2017 World Series Championship, posting a 1.06 ERA down the stretch.
This success continued into the next couple of years. Verlander narrowly missed out on the 2018 AL Cy Young Award, finishing as the runner-up to then-Rays ace Blake Snell. However, Verlander was able to win the award the next year, leading the AL in innings in his age 36 season, while striking out an even 300 batters.
Despite this resurgence, it was a long road back to success for Verlander. After just one start in 2020, he was shut down for elbow problems and underwent Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the rest of the 2020 season and the entire 2021 campaign. This raised questions on whether Verlander could return to top form in 2022.
Verlander didn't just meet expectations in 2022. He exceeded them by every measure you could think of. He led the American League in ERA (1.75), ERA+ (220), Wins (18), WHIP (0.829), and H/9 (6.0)
Justin Verlander's Astros career:
102 games started
3.87 postseason ERA
Two Cy Young Awards
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) December 5, 2022
New York Mets Sign Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander's Fantasy Impact in New York
What can you expect out of Verlander in his age-40 season in New York?
Fantasy sports are a young man's game. We see it in football, where running backs over the age of 27 are "destined" to fall off of a cliff. All across fantasy leagues, the older, reliable player gets pushed out. Even LeBron James wasn't a consensus first rounder in Fantasy Basketball.
However, Verlander isn't ready to relinquish his title as baseball's best arm. He certainly isn't ready to go ride off into the sunset with Kate Upton (although nobody would blame him if he were).
Verlander showed us last year that he has plenty left in the tank. While he is striking out fewer batters than in years past (his 9.5 K/9 was his lowest since 2015), his ability to keep runners off the base paths keeps him in the discussion of the top redraft fantasy arms in 2023.
Why is he only a top arm in redraft? As stated before, Verlander will be 40 when he makes his first pitch of the 2023 season. The only 40 year old starting pitchers in 2022 were Rich Hill and Adam Wainwright, both shells of their former selves. While Verlander is still dealing now, this may only be the case for another year or two (hence why his contract is for two years).
You only need a year of production in redraft leagues. Barring injury, Verlander is almost sure to give you a solid year in 2023. However, you should be looking for at least three solid years in dynasty formats. Here, Verlander's value should significantly drop. (Find out where our dynasty baseball guys have him here)
How Will The Astros Fill The Gap?
When a player of Verlander's stature leaves, measures are usually taken immediately to fill the gap left behind. When DeGrom left the Mets, they signed Verlander. Usually, teams will do "addition by subtraction", where they get multiple players to fill the production of the star that went elsewhere.
However, do the Astros even need to explore outside of the organization? Their current starting rotstion would be Framber Valdez, Christian Javvier, Lance McCullers, Jose Urquidy, and Luis Garcia. It's incredible that this rotation is still a top 10 rotation after losing a HOF-bound pitcher who is in the elite tier at his position.
The Astros could look for cheap depth pieces to fill the long relief spot in the bullpen, while making starts in case of injuries. There are a plethora of free agent pitchers who could fill this role. Some names the Astros should look to are Ross Stripling, Andrew Heaney, and Mike Minor.
This is obviously a massive deal. After the Rangers poached Jacob DeGrom away from the Big Apple, question marks surrounded the Mets' pitching staff outside of Max Scherzer. Verlander steps in and answers those question marks immediately. Verlander has unmatched production in the regular season and improved on his lackluster postseason metrics in 2022.
If Verlander is able to stay healthy (unlike DeGrom), the Mets should be able to hold onto the NLE title in 2023. More importantly, the Mets likely aren't done spending, and could make more moves to put them in a better place to win the World Series.
In Fantasy, you should absolutely be targeting him in redraft leagues as one of the top 5 arms available. I also think he's being underrated in Dynasty formats, as I still have him firmly on my Dynasty draft boards.
Either way, today was a huge day for the Mets and fantasy players alike.
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