NEW YORK (AP) — Justin Verlander had a one word answer for what convinced him to sign with the New York Mets: “Steve.”
As in owner Steve Cohen and his willingness to spend his hedge-fund fortune to bring the team its first World Series title since 1986.
“I took a leap of faith, and here we are a few weeks later, and I think that leap of faith has paid off,” Verlander said Tuesday during his introductory news conference at Citi Field. “Ultimately, some of those pieces aren’t cheap.”
Verlander’s wife, model Kate Upton, sat in a front-row seat in a purple pantsuit with their 4-year-old daughter Genevieve and watched the pitcher put on a No. 35 Mets jersey
Verlander agreed to a $86.7 million, two-year contract on Dec. 5, part of an offseason spending spree that has committed $476.7 million to seven free agents. The Mets also added starting pitchers Kodei Senga and José Quintana, retained center fielder Brandon Nimmo and closer Edwin Díaz, signed reliever David Robertson and reached an agreement with catcher Omar Narváez that is pending a physical.
“In the background, Steve is we’re going to do what is necessary,” Verlander said.
Returning from Tommy John surgery in 2020, Verlander went 18-4 with a major league-low 1.75 ERA this year in 28 starts for the Astros. He also got his first win in nine career World Series starts in Game 5 as Houston beat Philadelphia in six games.
Verlander, who turns 40 in February, became the 11th player to win the Cy Young Award at least three times. He takes a spot in the Mets rotation vacated by Jacob deGrom, who left for a $185 million, five-year contract with Texas, and reunites with Max Scherzer, his teammate in Detroit from 2010-14.
Verlander is guaranteed $43,333,333 in each of the next two seasons, matching Scherzer’s annual salary in a $130 million, three-year deal with the Mets through 2024.
New York has boosted its luxury tax payroll under owner Cohen to about $360 million next year, on track for a record tax of about $85 million.