Justin Verlander, Top Replacements for Mets After Jacob deGrom Signs Rangers Contract

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 3, 2022

Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning in Game 5 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The New York Mets must fill another spot in their starting rotation after Jacob deGrom left for the Texas Rangers in free agency on a five-year, $185 million deal on Friday, per ESPN's Jeff Passan.

The 2023 rotation should look vastly different than last year's group, with deGrom gone and right-handers Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker also free agents.

Mets owner Steve Cohen isn't shy about spending money, though, as evidenced by the team's league-high 2023 projected Opening Day payroll of $235 million.

Some big-name pitchers remain on the free-agent market, and that list starts with reigning American League Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.

Per Andy Martino of SNY, Verlander is now "front and center" for the Mets.

The nine-time All-Star and surefire Hall of Famer went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 185 strikeouts in 175.0 innings for the Houston Astros last year en route to a World Series victory. It was an incredible effort for the 39-year-old, who came back after missing nearly all of the past two seasons because of Tommy John surgery.

Verlander looks better than ever now. His 2.49 FIP was the best mark of his career, per Baseball Reference. He's also now won the AL Cy Young in his last two full seasons and arguably could have won in 2018 as well before finishing as runner-up to Blake Snell.

He's not the only top pitcher New York can pursue, though. Per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Mets are also "focusing their attention" on free-agent left-hander Carlos Rodón, who just went 14-8 with a 2.88 ERA and 237 strikeouts in 178 innings for the San Francisco Giants.

Rodón, who turns 30 on Dec. 10, was set to meet the Mets this week, per Martino. He's set to cash in big after opting out of his Giants deal. The Mets would have competition for him, of course, with the crosstown Yankees notably in the mix, per Jon Heyman of the New York Post.

Those are the two top options for the front end of the rotation alongside ace Max Scherzer.

New York can also pursue Kodai Senga, who is headed to MLB after dominating with Nippon Professional Baseball's Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

The 29-year-old right-hander went 11-6 with a 1.89 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 148 innings last year. Will Sammon of The Athletic reported on Nov. 17 that Senga spoke with the Mets.

"Some who have scouted Senga have been impressed with a fastball that can hit triple digits coupled with a tumbling splitter," Sammon wrote in part. "The knock on him is that he will likely need to better develop a third pitch or breaking ball."

New York could also re-sign Bassitt, who fared well as the team's No. 3 starter. He went 15-9 with a 3.42 ERA in 2022. Bassitt, who is entering his age-34 season, finished top-10 in the AL Cy Young voting in 2020 and 2021 with the Oakland Athletics.

Ultimately, the Mets should squarely plant themselves in the starting-pitcher market following Friday's news.