7:36PM: The Braves have also “checked” on Verlander but aren’t currently in talks with the Mets, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets.
5:50PM: Following the Mets’ trade of Max Scherzer to the Rangers led to further increased speculation about a trade of fellow high-priced, multi-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Several teams have been tied to the nine-time All-Star, including the Rangers, Astros and Dodgers. However, Andy Martino of SNY reports that the Mets value Verlander much differently than Scherzer. They’ve placed a higher asking price in terms of prospects and aren’t willing to pay down salary to the same extent they were in order to move Scherzer.
Astros fans may be hoping for a reunion with Verlander, who won his third career Cy Young Award in Houston last season, but it doesn’t appear that’s likely. Astros GM Dana Brown tells Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM that his team isn’t in the market for a starting pitcher right now and is instead focused more on the back of the bullpen and a left-handed bat (Twitter link). Per Martino, the Astros indeed checked in on Verlander, but the teams were “nowhere close” to agreeing on his value.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale hears similarly, writing that while Houston and New York have indeed discussed a Verlander deal, an Astros source tells him they’d likely require the Mets to pay down a “significant” portion of Verlander’s salary this year and next. Verlander’s $35MM vesting option for the 2025 season, which triggers upon reaching 140 innings pitched next year, is another hang-up in a potential deal. All of that complicates a potential Verlander/Astros reunion, which clouds the water on a trade in general. Like Scherzer, Verlander has a full no-trade clause — and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic writes that the Astros are “perhaps” the team for which he’s most willing to waive that protection.
Broadly speaking, everything will hinge on Verlander’s preferences. Via SNY’s Steve Gelbs (Twitter link, with video), the 40-year-old righty said following Sunday’s game that his openness to a trade “largely depends on how the organization views next year,” adding that he’s “committed to trying to win a championship” in Queens but would be more open to waiving his no-trade protection if Mets decision-makers feel it’s best to take a step back in 2024. The Mets will have plenty of rotation questions with Scherzer now in Arlington and Carlos Carrasco hitting free agency at season’s end. Presently, Verlander, Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana are the only surefire starters signed into 2024. Depth options like David Peterson, Tylor Megill, Joey Lucchesi and Jose Butto all remain on hand as well.
Early indications are that the Mets don’t view this as a large-scale teardown. GM Billy Eppler plainly said after yesterday’s Scherzer trade that he does not view the current step back as a rebuild (link via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com) They’ll have ample financial firepower to pursue new arms to fill out the rotation in the offseason — with a particularly deep crop of free agent starters available. Shohei Ohtani, Julio Urias, Lucas Giolito, Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, Sonny Gray, Marcus Stroman, Jordan Montgomery and NPB ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto are among the names in the upcoming class of free agent arms.
The Mets already have nearly $220MM in guaranteed money on next year’s books, per Roster Resource — a number that includes the $26.833MM they’ll pay Scherzer. (Texas is picking up a reported $16.5MM of next year’s salary.) That’s before factoring in Brooks Raley’s $6.5MM club option or arbitration raises for a group of ten players, headlined by first baseman Pete Alonso. Owner Steve Cohen trotted out a record payroll of more than $350MM this season, so clearly the capacity for spending is there — it’ll just be a matter of whether the Mets want to spend to that extent again after this year’s efforts fell flat in notable fashion. Trading Verlander would radically lower that 2024 financial outlay, but it’d also only create another hole that the Mets would likely need to fill in the rotation (likely via free agency).
For now, they’ll have about 48 hours to see if anyone’s willing to meet their asking price on Verlander — and then to gauge whether the right-hander is amenable to the deal.