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Justin Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, agrees to sign with the Mets

Justin Verlander will join Max Scherzer in New York. (David J. Phillip/AP)
5 min

SAN DIEGO — Three-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander agreed to a deal with the New York Mets, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The two-year deal is reportedly worth around $86 million — or just around the record-setting $43 million annually the Mets gave Max Scherzer last offseason — and includes a vesting option for a third year, according to the New York Post.

Verlander joins the Mets just days after their homegrown ace, Jacob deGrom, bolted for a five-year deal with the Texas Rangers. He will be 40 on Opening Day. The Mets’ other ace, Scherzer, will be 38.

But like Scherzer, Verlander has seemed unusually immune to the aging process. He is coming off a season in which he pitched to a 1.75 ERA and a postseason that included his first career World Series win — one of the best seasons of his career, despite the fact that it came after he missed all of the 2021 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. The righty has 244 career wins, making him one of the few pitchers in recent memory to find himself within striking distance of the magical number of 300, and Verlander has said many times he hopes to pitch well into his 40s.

The Mets now have the oldest and most highly paid front of the rotation in the majors, having reunited Verlander with Scherzer, his former Detroit Tigers teammate, in a rotation with six combined Cy Young Awards — and nearly 6,000 combined innings on their expensive right arms. They are not only two of the more dominant righties of the 21st century but also two of the more competitive pitchers in the sport — a duo that seems likely to be as competitive internally as they will be with their opponents. Though hypothetical and tough to quantify, that dynamic could serve the Mets well.

While Scherzer and Verlander have shared a rotation before, Scherzer wasn’t nearly as dominant and demonstrative in those Tigers years as he is now. Both are bona fide aces. Each seems likely to want to outdo the other. Neither has ever needed much added motivation.

Verlander is 12th all-time in strikeouts, a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. Scherzer is 13th and will be five behind him as the 2023 season begins. Verlander has led his league in strikeouts five times. Scherzer has led his league three times. Since Scherzer’s first full major league season in 2009, Scherzer and Verlander are first and second in the majors in strikeouts and first and third in innings.

Funnily enough, the men nearest them in those categories, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, were also in the news at baseball’s winter meetings in San Deigo on Monday morning. The Dodgers announced the specifics of Kershaw’s one-year deal for the 2023 season, which will pay him $20 million — or less than half of what Scherzer and Verlander made. Greinke remains a free agent, a focus of rumors for teams in the market for starting pitching.

That market looks significantly different Monday than it did even three days ago. With deGrom and Verlander off the board, the top starting pitcher available is Carlos Rodón, a hard-throwing lefty who will be 30 on Opening Day. The price of pitching has been high from the top of the market to the bottom so far, meaning teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees who need pitching and haven’t gotten some yet may find themselves in substantial bidding wars for the next tier of available starters — a group that includes former Yankee Jameson Taillon and former Met Chris Bassitt.

If there is cause for concern for the Mets, it is not that Verlander and Scherzer — two of the most consistent starters of their era — will underperform when they pitch. It is that they will not pitch enough. Scherzer has dealt with injuries in each of the past three postseasons of which he was a part, breaking down somewhat by the end of each season.

Verlander pitched into November as the Houston Astros made their way to the World Series title this year, so in addition to the 175 innings he handled during his first season back from Tommy John (a higher number than most starters in similar circumstances prove able to handle), he also threw 20 high-pressure October innings — the kind of postseason push that has left many starting pitchers a little less formidable than they once were (see: Strasburg, Stephen).

But Verlander has a long track record of durability, and the Mets are betting that he continue it. That’s the same bet they made with Scherzer in 2021 — with somewhat mixed results. They now have two future Hall of Famers in their rotation — and almost $90 million committed to those two alone next year.

This story has been updated.