NEW YORK — For weeks, Justin Verlander has reiterated his commitment to the Mets and his hopes of winning a championship in Queens. Even after his last start, Verlander quipped that he didn’t sign a one-year deal with the club.
“How do you not think about it?” he said following Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the Nationals, the 250th of Verlander’s career. “When you see that happen, you can’t help but think: What’s in store for next year? We play the game to win, and you want the opportunity to do so.”
Earlier in the day, general manager Billy Eppler didn’t close the door on trading more pieces from the Mets’ 2024 roster.
“We’re going to listen. Our price points are high,” he said. “The bar is high to meet it, but we are willing in certain circumstances to use (owner Steve Cohen’s) investment and repurpose that investment to serve the larger goal, which is to build a championship organization.”
Eppler added that the Mets would likely have lower expectations in 2024 than they did in either 2022 or 2023.
“Max is a tough sign if you’re trying to go back at it,” Verlander said, admitting the trade surprised him when it broke Saturday. “It changed my opinion a little bit.”
A Verlander trade would pose the same logistical challenges as the one for Scherzer. In order to receive worthwhile prospects back, the Mets would have to cover a significant portion of the salary remaining on Verlander’s deal. Like Scherzer, he is set to make $43.3 million next season. Unlike Scherzer, Verlander has a conditional player option for $35 million in 2025 that vests if he throws 140 innings next season.
That means he could have as much as $93 million left on his deal. The Mets covered more than 60 percent of the money remaining on Scherzer’s deal to land one consensus top-100 prospect in Luisangel Acuña.
Like Scherzer, Verlander has a no-trade clause, which could allow him to veto unwanted destinations or steer the process toward a more desired spot. The Athletic has reported legitimate interest in Verlander from both the Astros and Dodgers.
Verlander said he would have open conversations with Cohen and Eppler about where the Mets are headed.
“I’m committed to trying to win a championship here,” Verlander said. “But if the organization decides that that’s not exactly the direction that they think is best fit to go for next year and go for it again, then, yeah, I’d be more open to it.
“Right now there’s a lot of gray area. I can’t make a decision on a lot of what-ifs. I deal in facts.”
For his part, Verlander is pitching better than Scherzer. He tossed 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball in Sunday’s win, lowering his ERA on the season to 3.15. Over his last seven starts, he has a 1.49 ERA. Only Blake Snell and Jesus Luzardo have been better in that time span.
He noted the loud ovation he received walking off the Citi Field mound in the sixth inning on Sunday.
“I don’t know what’s to come,” he said, “but that I’ll always remember.”
(Photo: Rich Schultz / Getty Images)