After a successful 101-61 season that ended in their first playoff appearance since 2016, the New York Mets entered last offseason ready to spend. With Steve Cohen, their hedge fund billionaire owner, calling the shots, the Mets began this season with the most expensive roster in MLB history — and high hopes for a championship.
Those hopes were quickly dashed as the Mets couldn’t maintain their quality play from last year. As of this writing, they’re nine games below .500, a whopping 21 games out of first place in the NL East, and just 3.5 games ahead of the last-place Washington Nationals, a team that knew it was rebuilding from day one of the season.
With a repeat playoff appearance looking like a pipe dream, the Mets are looking to regroup by selling off their expensive stars and acquiring valuable minor-league prospects instead. Yet, perhaps in an effort to sweeten these deals, Cohen is still footing most of the bill — he could pay up to $88 million to Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander to have them pitch elsewhere.
With the trade deadline looming in early August, the Mets’ first big move was to send Scherzer, 39, to the Texas Rangers for Luisangel Acuña, a shortstop prospect and younger brother of Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. Cohen agreed to pay at least $35.5 million of the remaining $58.2 million of Scherzer’s deal. That means the Mets will be paying up to 61% of Scherzer’s salary over the next two seasons, even though he’s no longer on the team. The Mets and Rangers will be two of the three teams paying Scherzer this season and next.
Scherzer at least spent a season and a half with the Mets. The team only signed the 40-year-old Verlander this offseason. He was coming off a Cy Young award and a World Series championship with the Houston Astros, yet he managed just a 6-5 record and 3.15 ERA in 16 starts with the Mets. A mere three days after dealing Scherzer, the Mets sent Verlander back to the Astros for outfield prospects Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford.
Verlander’s deal with the Mets was worth $86.6 million over two seasons. It also included a vesting option for 2025, which pays Verlander $35 million if he throws 140 innings during the 2024 season. If Verlander remained with the Mets for the entirety of the deal and reached that 140-innings milestone, the team would have owed him $92.5 million. Instead, they get a “bargain” and only have to pay Verlander up to $52.5 million over the next few seasons, while Houston will cover the rest.
That’s a combined $88 million given to Scherzer and Verlander for them to go play for other teams. In return, the Mets get three prospects who may help them down the line.
Maybe things work out, and the Mets get back to glory in the coming seasons. For this year, the team’s former aces are now on rival teams in the AL West.
At least someone who wore a Mets jersey this season will play in meaningful games come October.