The New York Mets are in full-on sell mode at the 2023 MLB trade deadline, having already moved several significant pieces. Max Scherzer, David Robertson and Mark Canha are gone, and one more big name could be moved. Justin Verlander is being bandied about in trade talks. The Mets almost certainly want to get out from under his contract, which is a ticking time bomb for the franchise, or whoever acquires him.
A year removed from winning the American League Cy Young Award, Verlander has had an up and down campaign with the Mets. He battled a shoulder injury early in 2023, though he's finally seemed to straighten things out and has posted a 6-5 record with a 3.15 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and 81 strikeouts in 94.1 innings. He has turned it around in June and July and has loads of postseason experience, making him an attractive trade chip. But the 40-year-old's contract is a major issue.
Verlander is making $43.3 million this season and is due another $43.3 million in 2024. Then there's a serious rub. If Verlander throws140 innings next season, he hits the mark for a $35 million vesting option in 2025. That means if a team lands him, it could be on the hook for $78.3 million over the next two seasons, plus whatever is left on his deal in 2023.
Unless something catastrophic happens, it's hard to see Verlander missing that line next season. So teams looking to acquire him -- like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros -- have to weigh that into their calculations. He'll be 42 in 2025 and has had significant arm issues over the past few years. He still seems to have it when he's on the mound, but is he worth $78.3 million over two years as he ages? It's a tough question to answer.
Despite having solid numbers this season since getting healthy, a peek at his Statcast pages from 2023 and 2022 show a steeply declining pitcher:
Verlander is a massive risk with a contract that could be a disaster. It will be interesting to see if any team offers the Mets a lifeline by taking him off their hands.