NEW YORK — Jacob deGrom is a Texas Ranger now, having shocked the baseball world by agreeing to a five-year contract worth a reported $185 million. In the end, according to sources, the Mets did not even put a best-and-final offer in front of their former ace.
So how do they pivot from here?
The 34-year-old right-hander was a potential centerpiece of the Mets’ offseason plan, given that they still feature a rotation with multiple holes. But he was not the only ace available on the open market, and the timing of his signing, mere days before the start of the Winter Meetings on Sunday, gives the Mets ample opportunity to find a replacement.
At the moment, the Mets’ 2023 rotation looks something like this:
That’s not nearly enough for a team with championship aspirations, and Mets officials know that. So whom might they target with deGrom out of the picture?
Option No. 1: Justin Verlander
The good: Not only is Verlander a likely Hall of Famer, but he’s coming off arguably the best season of his career — a Cy Young campaign that saw him produce a 1.75 ERA over 28 starts after he missed all of 2021 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Reuniting him with Scherzer atop the rotation could give the Mets an even more potent combo than Scherzer and deGrom. More than that, Verlander likely will be willing to sign a short-term, high-average annual value deal that would not hamstring the Mets for seasons to come.
The bad: Verlander is going to be 40 years old on Opening Day. While he’s as good a bet as anyone to remain strong into his 40s, it becomes increasingly difficult with each year that passes. At some point, Verlander’s production will go south; if it’s next year in New York, that would be an expensive mistake.
The likelihood: Pretty high. Verlander always seemed like the Mets’ primary fallback option to deGrom. Now that deGrom is a Ranger, Verlander could become New York’s top target.
Option No. 2: Carlos Rodón
The good: Unlike Verlander, Rodón is only 29. He has delivered ace-like performances when healthy. Over the past two years, Rodón has gone 27-13 with a 2.67 ERA for the White Sox and Giants, making consecutive All-Star teams and finishing in the top six in Cy Young voting each year.
The bad: If Verlander is a massive age risk, Rodón is an equally large injury risk. His history includes elbow, biceps, shoulder and wrist ailments, including Tommy John surgery in 2019. Rodón has been a different pitcher since that operation, but this year’s total of 178 innings was his career high. And because of his age, Rodón will be seeking a longer-term deal than deGrom or Verlander.
The likelihood: Because the Mets value year-to-year payroll flexibility, Rodón seems a bit less likely than Verlander. But he’s a strong option.
Option No. 3: Kodai Senga
The good: With a fastball that has been clocked at 101 mph and a career 2.85 ERA in Japan, Senga is as appealing as any player to come out of Japan since Shohei Ohtani. He has top-of-the-rotation potential.
The bad: Untested at the highest levels of the sport, Senga is an unknown quantity when it comes to his ability to retire Major League hitters consistently. He could be an ace or something far less, making his acquisition a risk for any team.
The likelihood: It’s possible the Mets could acquire both Senga and either Verlander or Rodón, depending upon what the contracts look like. If nothing else, there’s real intrigue here.
Plenty of alternatives to those pitchers exist. According to sources, the Mets have had recent contact with Chris Bassitt, Jameson Taillon and Andrew Heaney, among others. Taijuan Walker remains a possibility to return, and Nathan Eovaldi is on the Mets’ radar. The Mets will explore at least some of those possibilities at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.