The Winter Meetings haven’t even been going on for 24 hours. The New York Mets already made the biggest splash of the offseason thus far. Justin Verlander will now be atop the rotation in Queens alongside Max Scherzer after signing a two-year, $86 million contract.
Steve Cohen has officially established himself and the Mets, for the third offseason in a row, a notch above the New York Yankees, who seemingly can’t even close a deal with Aaron Judge.
Early Monday afternoon, the Mets moved quickly to replace Jacob deGrom, who left for the Rangers on a massive five-year, $185 million contract (that could end up being six years for $222 million). The Mets, and most other non-desperate teams, were never going to pay that price, so Cohen went out and got the next-best asset on a short-term deal that aligns with Scherzer’s contract (which has one more guaranteed year and a player option remaining).
What do you know! Being proactive! It helps! The Yankees, who were also reportedly in on Verlander, have lost out again for the second offseason in a row. Last year, they were unwilling to go above one year and $25 million. This year, they were never coming close to the price Cohen paid, even though that’s what they knew they had to pay.
And this puts to rest the belief of Verlander potentially not wanting to play in New York. Scherzer apparently didn’t want to, either! All it took was some money to make it happen.
Mets beat Yankees to Justin Verlander with massive two-year contract
Now, did the Yankees need Verlander? Not at all. They already have one of the best rotations in the league. In fact, SNY’s Andy Martino reported that the Yankees had been out on the right-hander for a while before the Mets swooped in.
Regardless, you can see the difference in philosophies. The Mets are willing to pay top-of-market price for the guys they want. The Yankees are content waiting for markets to develop so they can be more reactionary. How has that worked out for them in recent years? Had they given Verlander an option last season, the Yankees might’ve been able to land him. They refused. This time around, Cohen gave him a third-year vesting option. This is how you do business as a big-market team.
When the Yankees do decide to pounce, they overpay Gerrit Cole by $75 million. They give Aaron Hicks $70 million. So maybe this isn’t their game anymore, after all.
This is by no means a gut-punch or massive oversight by the Yankees, but it’s a reminder that they’re not willing to consistently go above and beyond for what they want/need.
If Cashman and Co. were a top-notch finesse front office, perhaps this wouldn’t be a talking point. But they’re not. And they also make the wrong big-money moves while watching their targets get what they want elsewhere.
Better figure out a way to sweeten the pot for Judge, or else we’ll be looking at a bleak, bleak offseason.