The New York Mets couldn’t have done much better to get off on the right foot at the MLB Winter Meetings and subsequently cushion the blow of losing Jacob deGrom in free agency.
Justin Verlander is now a fixture atop the team’s rotation alongside Max Scherzer for at least the next two seasons after signing a two-year, $86 million pact on Monday — a deal that came to fruition less than a week after seeing deGrom walk to the Texas Rangers.
Bringing on the 39-year-old allows the Mets to stay in a World Series frame of mind, ensuring that the 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation is still second to none. But owner Steve Cohen and Billy Eppler have plenty more to do this offseason after a promising jump off the line.
How do Mets round out rotation?
There are still holes to fill within the starting rotation even with Verlander being penciled into deGrom’s spot.
Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker are also free agents, opting out of the final years of their deals with the Mets to test the open waters.
At this rate, the Mets only need one more mid-rotation starter. Verlander and Scherzer adorn the top of the staff with, ideally, the No. 3 spot open while Carlos Carrasco and David Peterson inhabit the No. 4 and 5 slots.
Bassitt would be a logical option to come back and re-assume that No. 3 role. He had one of the finest seasons of his career in Queens — his lone campaign with the Mets after being acquired from the Oakland Athletics — going 15-9 with a 3.42 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 181.2 innings of work.
The problem is that Bassitt is reportedly looking for a new contract of more than three years — which is a level of term the Mets don’t seem all that keen on pursuing (h/t Mike Puma, New York Post).
Eppler and the Mets have maintained conversations with Japanese star transfer Kodai Senga, who will make the jump to the majors in 2023. Other names include Jameson Taillon and Andrew Heaney.
What’s the top priority?
Right now, that’s a bit of a loaded question because there are two abundantly clear answers for that.
Rounding out the rotation is an obvious necessity that will have to happen sooner rather than later because a robust market will diminish quickly. However, the future in center field is as much of a pressing subject as anything else.
Brandon Nimmo is a free agent and is understandably getting a ton of interest as the top center fielder available on the market. The drop-off in talent behind him at the position is sizable — and one that the Mets might be best not to trifle with.
Of course, there is the possibility of a bidding war making the 30-year-old’s price tag too rich for even Cohen and Eppler, but potential replacements don’t inspire much confidence.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Mets are in on Andrew Benintendi — the light-hitting left fielder potentially being part of a re-worked outfield in Queens that would force Starling Marte to move to center field and Mark Canha to shift to right.
Marte was originally a center fielder but at 34 years old, his range is only diminishing defensively. And an outfield of Benintendi, Marte, and Canha is a significant downgrade compared to what they had last season.