It was reported about three weeks ago that the Mets had a sit-down meeting with Japanese right-hander Kodai Senga. Since then, the club has been very busy, giving $86.66MM to Justin Verlander, $162MM to Brandon Nimmo, $26MM to Jose Quintana and $10MM to David Robertson. Despite all of that, Andy Martino of SNY reports that Senga is still an option for the club.
From a baseball perspective, the club’s continued interest in Senga is quite logical. The Mets saw three pitchers depart their rotation at the end of the 2022 season, as Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker all reached free agency. deGrom and Walker have already found new homes with the Rangers and Phillies, respectively, but the Mets have replaced them with Verlander and Quintana. With those two slotted next to Max Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco, they have a solid front four, with options for the final slot like David Peterson or Tylor Megill.
However, the Mets seem to have no limits on either their desire to improve nor their ability to spend money to do so. Their 2023 payroll is already up to an incredible $322MM, per Roster Resource, with a competitive balance tax figure of $335MM. These are unprecedented levels and it doesn’t seem like we’ve reached their limit.
Senga was predicted by MLBTR to earn a contract of $75MM over five years, or $15MM per season. The market has proven to be incredibly strong compared to expectations this year, so it’s entirely possible he ends up eclipsing those numbers. Still, even if we stick to those projections for a second, the extra cost for the Mets will be significant. Since the Mets also paid the CBT in 2022, they will be second-time payors in 2023, which will come with added taxes. For any spending beyond the top CBT tier of $293MM, they will be paying a 90% tax. They are already well beyond that, so paying Senga even a $15MM salary will also lead to a $13.5MM tax, meaning they’d effectively be paying $28.5MM in order to obtain Senga’s services for this year.
That would certainly be quite a financial commitment to make, though it doesn’t seem the Mets are really bothered about pinching pennies at this point, simply going after whoever they want to go after. Targeting Senga makes sense as he’s perhaps the top free agent starting pitcher remaining outside of Carlos Rodón. Featuring a triple-digit heater and an excellent splitter, Senga posted a a 1.94 ERA, 27.5% strikeout rate and 8.6% walk rate through 144 innings in the NPB this year. It wasn’t just a one-year fluke either, as he had a 2.39 ERA over his past four seasons combined.
Though the Mets seem plenty willing to spend on their desired players, they will at least have some competition here. The Blue Jays, Red Sox, Padres, Giants, Yankees and Mariners are other teams that have been connected to his market, with plenty of others surely at the table as well. But despite being in uncharted financial waters, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to count out the Mets from another splash.