Justin Verlander heading to the Mets (source)

SAN DIEGO — After learning late last week that Jacob deGrom had decided to leave for Texas without giving his old team a chance to fight back, general manager Billy Eppler gave deGrom Sent a congratulatory message. The two spoke regularly in late November, and Eppler understood that deGrom might sign elsewhere. Dwelling on its effects will not be fruitful.

Instead, Eppler allowed less than 72 hours to pass before finding a replacement for deGrom. The Mets on Monday agreed to a two-year, $86.7 million contract with Justin Verlander that includes a $35 million vesting option through 2025, a person familiar with the matter confirmed. The team has yet to announce the contract. When it becomes official, it will reunite Verlander with Max Scherzer, who played alongside Detroit from 2010-14.

In effect, Eppler replaced one of the greatest pitchers of this generation with another for less than half the total cost.

“The way we want to think about it is just opportunistic,” Eppler said, speaking in general terms because he could not comment on the still-pending deal. “If an opportunity arises, based on our valuation, my responsibility is to take it [owner] steve [Cohen] Then call it.

The chance to acquire Verlander, who continues to defy time at age 39 with arguably his best major league season, proved too compelling for the Mets. The three-time Cy Young Award winner is coming off the year with a league-best 1.75 ERA in 28 appearances for the Astros, with a 0.83 WHIP and a league-adjusted ERA+ of 220 (suggesting he’s more than the average pitcher. twice as efficient). Verlander was still deep in the game in the ’90s.

More broadly, Verlander is a 17-year veteran whose accolades include a nine-time All-Star, the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year Award and the 2011 AL MVP. He has won two of the three Cy Young Awards over the past four seasons. He underwent Tommy John surgery between awards and missed nearly all of ’20 and ’21, but he returned with unprecedented success.

Given that efficiency, Verlander made the obvious decision to opt out of his final year with $25 million remaining on his contract with the Astros. When he did, he discovered a market full of teams enamored of his skills and willing to look beyond his years.

In some respects, Wieland was less of a risk than a young deGrom. He’s throwing more innings this year than deGrom combined in 2021-22, as the Mets battle longtime right elbow and shoulder injuries. Verlander has proven what deGrom hasn’t, including his ability to play in his 30s. It just takes a little faith to believe that Verlander can continue to be successful at 40 and 41.

In a sense, Verlander’s age actually works to the Mets’ advantage, as it allows them to acquire him on a short-term, high-average annual value deal that wasn’t possible in his prime. AAV is the same that the Mets gave Scherzer before last season. The $86.7 million total guaranteed value is nearly $100 million less than what the Rangers guaranteed deGrom, and almost certainly less than the multiyear contract that another top starter, Carlos Rodón, will receive.

In fact, the deal does keep the Mets out of the game because of Rodón, but not the other pitchers. Verlander will join a rotation that includes Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson and Tylor Megill. His new team is still in the market for an additional starter, according to multiple sources, which includes Kodai Senga, Chris Bassitt, Jameson Taillon, Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney and others. Eppler has mentioned several times that the answer to starting pitches is also available through the trade market.

Elsewhere on the roster, Eppler’s offseason agenda includes rebuilding his bullpen after re-signing closer Edwin Dias for $102 million, while also beefing up outfielders, DH types or both. attacker’s attack. But the most important item on his to-do list is signing a forward starter: deGrom or someone very like him.

Throughout November, Eppler kept a close eye on deGrom, speaking regularly with him and his representatives. When it became clear that deGrom was leaving, Eppler sent a congratulatory text and moved on to other things. GM declined to comment on the nature of deGrom’s response.

“He made a decision that made sense for him and his family,” Eppler said. “I’m so happy for him and wish him the best. I said, ‘I’m going to miss seeing you on a regular basis. But yeah, that’s it.”

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