Mets’ Jacob deGrom-Justin Verlander trade is best of offseason

There’s been talk about the Mets making trades to the point of a new rumor almost every other week, with Liam Hendriks being the latest. The new-era Mets, however, already made the best trade anyone will make this winter.

Introducing Justin Verlander, in for ultra-talented part-time performer Jacob deGrom.

Verlander, here Tuesday for his introduction (not that he needs one), arrives as a Hall of Fame lock determined to reach all-time great status and win a third ring. Verlander got the max deal, literally, as he matched his former and future Mets teammate Max Scherzer at precisely $43.333 million a year, which is only logical and fair. Anyway, the Mets should consider themselves lucky deGrom had no great interest in staying a Met and shrugged off what looks like a half-hearted attempt to keep him.

Earlier reports they’d offered deGrom close to $120 million over three years are said to be exaggerated, and if they even got to $110 million, they were outbid by 60 percent by the Rangers. Which only shows Steve Cohen’s Mets aren’t only richer, they are smarter, as well. DeGrom banked $185 million, nearly $100 million more than Verlander, mostly because Verlander’s birth certificate says he’ll turn 40 this spring.

In that case, I’ll take age before absenteeism.

Verlander is a three-time Cy Young winner who’s moving up the career strikeout charts (he’s 12th all-time, five ahead of Scherzer).

Justin Verlander
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

DeGrom is a two-time Cy Young winner who became a cameo performer, a guy who wows you intermittently.

Verlander is trending up. While winning his third Cy Young last year, he posted an MLB best 1.75 ERA.

DeGrom is having trouble trending up. He very likely led both leagues in MRI exams the last two years. (Good news for the Rangers: word is that his latest MRI allegedly looks pristine.)

Verlander speaks hopefully and often about wanting to pitch as long as he can, as well as he can. He didn’t put an exact timetable on it Tuesday, correcting himself to say he may be “10 miles from the finish line” after first noting that the Tommy John surgery he had a couple years ago came fairly late in his career. He’s often suggested he’d like to keep going into his mid-40s, a la Nolan Ryan, and who’s to doubt him?

DeGrom’s most memorable comments were always about his opt-out and how he was sure he was going to end his contract after 2022 (to be fair, he was correct there). His new agents obviously clearly convinced him that he was rooked to be pitching for a paltry $30 million a year.

Oh, deGrom was elite all right, at least when he made it to the mound. He pitched almost a full season if you add up the last two years.

Jacob deGrom signed with the Rangers this offseason.

As a bonus, Verlander brings a personality and some celebrity with him. When called upon he is engaging. He cares. Even if it’s an act (and I don’t think so, although his wife Kate Upton is a supermodel/actress), it’s a good one. Verlander told us he lived in New York one winter (Battery Park to be precise) to accompany his wife’s work.

“I love the vibe. I love the city. I love the people,” Verlander said.

The Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays all showed interest, as you’d expect. But he found he liked the city once removed from the hustle and bustle of the visiting team Times Square hotels, and he loved his initial call with Cohen.

Verlander isn’t just an every-five-day performer. He will engage, which is appreciated. While he made it clear he prefers not to see it as him replacing deGrom, he said he ultimately admitted he understood the Mets were endeavoring to continue the two-ace model and even felt it was appropriate to let the Mets’ deGrom talks play out first.

Justin Verlander speaks to the media at Citi Field on Tuesday.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“He’s iconic here in this stadium and this organization,” Verlander said. “And I don’t think it was fair to me or him to make that decision before Jake.”

Those talks turned out to be brief. To watch deGrom was to love him. To know him was something else. He acted as if he was in his own world, and I heard complaints deGrom sometimes wouldn’t acknowledge even Mets honchos while walking past. That’s not the kind of thing that leads to enthusiasm for negotiation.

Whether or not Verlander prefers to see himself as the Jake replacement, there’s no other way to see it. The Mets lost a true artist in deGrom, someone who has managed to consistently throw fastballs at 101 mph and sliders at 95, at least when present.

But in Verlander, the Mets have the right top-of-the-rotation running mate for Scherzer, even if they weren’t fast friends in Detroit, where they reached the World Series twice without winning the ring. Some reported past iciness is the one question about this call, and I’d say it’s not worth a moment of worry.

As Verlander eloquently explained, back then they were “two young men trying to establish their foothold in the game.” Their perspective is different now, as they have families and the footprint has long been established. So any issue is very likely ancient history.

October history is what Cohen and Verlander are aiming for here. And with Verlander now, the Mets’ chances improved dramatically.


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