Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander has agreed to terms with the New York Mets on a free agent contract, CBS Sports HQ's Jim Bowden confirmed Monday. Verlander will receive a two-year contract with a vesting option for a third year. The Athletic reports the first two years of the deal are worth $86.66 million.
The $43.3 million average annual value is identical to what the Mets gave Max Scherzer last offseason (three years, $130 million) and tied for the largest in baseball history. Verlander and Scherzer are the only two players ever to sign contracts worth more than $40 million per year, though Aaron Judge could join them this offseason.
Verlander, 39, started 28 games last season for the Houston Astros, amassing a 1.75 ERA (220 ERA+) and a 6.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 175 innings. He had previously missed most of the 2020-21 seasons undergoing and then recovering from Tommy John surgery. Verlander is the sixth reigning Cy Young winner to sign with a new team as a free agent. The others:
- 2021 - Robbie Ray: Toronto Blue Jays to Seattle Mariners
- 2020 - Trevor Bauer: Cincinnati Reds to Los Angeles Dodgers
- 1992 - Greg Maddux: Chicago Cubs to Atlanta Braves
- 1989 - Mark Davis: San Diego Padres to Kansas City Royals
- 1974 - Catfish Hunter: Oakland Athletics to New York Yankees
The Mets needed to replace two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, . Even with Verlander signed, the Mets are expected to add another starting pitcher after deGrom, Chris Bassitt, and Taijuan Walker all became free agents. They have been in contact with Jameson Taillon, among others.
Verlander reunites with Scherzer, his teammate with the Detroit Tigers from 2010-12. The duo has combined for six Cy Young awards (three apiece), though Verlander turns 40 in February and Scherzer turns 39 in July. They both remain excellent, but do come with age-related risk. The Mets have sunk a lot of money into two pitchers with a lot of innings on their arms.
CBS Sports ranked Verlander as the No. 6 free agent. Here's what we wrote at the time:
Verlander had a most remarkable season. Remember back in the spring, when it was unclear how well or how much he'd pitch after missing most of the last two seasons because of Tommy John surgery? He put those concerns out to pasture in a hurry, starting 27 times and performing well enough to win the Cy Young Award. And he did this at a time when he's nearing his 40th birthday. Verlander has lived a charmed life in many respects, no doubt, but it's admirable that he's maintained this kind of work ethic and passion for the game despite having accomplished almost everything that a pitcher can accomplish. He could've walked away and waited on his call from Cooperstown. That he instead put in the effort to come back this good is an impressive feat, and one that helps to explain the success he's had throughout his career. He declined a one-year option worth $25 million.
FanGraphs estimates New York's 2023 competitive balance tax payroll at $288.8 million with Verlander, not far under their record $298.8 million payroll in 2022. It's unclear whether owner Steve Cohen is willing to exceed $300 million, and if not, they figure to look for ways to trim salary so they can sign other players. Catcher James McCann is an obvious salary-dump candidate.
The Mets went 101-61 this past season and finished second to the Braves in the NL East, then lost the Wild Card Series in three games to the Padres. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1. It is the third-largest blown division lead in baseball history.