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New York Mets reportedly view Justin Verlander as Plan B, latest on contract talks with Jacob deGrom

Matt Johnson

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom is the most coveted pitcher in MLB free agency, creating plenty of competition for owner Steve Cohen. With deGrom expected to become one of the highest paid MLB players this winter, New York is starting to explore alternatives.

Fortunately for the Mets, there are high-end pitchers available this winter. Three-time Cy Young Award winner and two-time World Series champion Justin Verlander wants to join a championship contender and could pair perfectly alongside Max Scherzer.

If New York wants to add a younger co-ace behind its future Hall of Famer, Carlos Rodón is coming off a phenomenal season with the San Francisco Giants. While the 29-year-old southpaw does have a history of arm injuries, he boasts a 2.67 ERA, .194 BAA and 33.9% strikeout rate in 55 starts since 2021.

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While Rodón or a trade target like Pablo López could eventually be in the center of New York’s radar, it appears that attention is focused elsewhere for now.

According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, Verlander landing with the Mets is a prominent possibility if deGrom lands elsewhere. New York is focused on keeping its ace, but the front office views Verlander as an elite backup plan who could perfectly fill the void in the starting rotation.

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Signing Verlander would certainly mean paying a second ace at least $40 million per season. However, his addition would mean there is limited drop-off if deGrom departs in free agency. As of now, though, it seems New York remains hopeful that won’t happen.

Will Jacob deGrom leave the New York Mets?

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Coming off a season with a $287 million payroll, Cohen and the Mets’ front office want to be prudent with their spending in free agency. It’s why deGrom’s potential contract will have a significant impact on what route the organization takes.

Based on Puma’s reporting, the Mets seem to be allowing deGrom to explore his options. New York wants the 34-year-old to gauge the market, finding out exactly how much money other teams are willing to offer a two-time Cy Young Award winner who has battled elbow and shoulder issues in the past two seasons.

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deGrom has repeatedly told teammates that he loves playing for the Mets and Westchester County offers him the opportunity to be around nature while still playing for one of the most prominent teams in MLB.

Seemingly taking those factors into account, a team source told Puma, the Mets believe deGrom will stay with the club if their offer is close to or matches the offers he receives in free agency.

If another club is willing to offer him significantly more, going past $45 million per season on a guaranteed three-year contract, New York will let deGrom leave and pivot to Verlander. Whether deGrom re-signs or Verlander potentially fills the void, the Mets could be paying two starting pitchers more than $80 million guaranteed in 2023.