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From Justin Verlander to Kodai Senga: Grading Mets’ MLB free agency moves

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Though they may still be pursuing another relief pitcher, the heavy lifting in free agency is largely done for the New York Mets. It’s time to hand out grades for each of the Mets free-agent signings.

Justin Verlander, RHP (2 years, $86.67 million): A

Hard to quibble with bringing in the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner to replace Jacob deGrom, who left for, ahem, greener pastures with the Texas Rangers.

Sure, there’s some concern. That’s a lot of money (tied for highest AAV in MLB history with teammate Max Scherzer) for anyone, much less a 40-year-old pitcher. At two years, though, the contract works. And Verlander is about as good a bet as you can find to live up to this deal.

Brandon Nimmo, CF (8 years, $162 million): B

Likely the riskiest move the Mets made this offseason is also one they had to make.

Nimmo’s inability to stay on the field, which was not an issue last season when he played 151 games, raises red flags for an eight-year deal that runs through his age-38 season. However, Nimmo was the second-best outfielder on the market behind Aaron Judge, wanted to return to the Mets and was heavily pursued by several teams. Thus, the contract is what it is.

Of course, there are plenty of positives with Nimmo. He’s an ideal leadoff hitter, an on-base machine at his best and has developed into a very good defensive centerfielder. He’s also matured into a team leader and is a solid citizen on and off the field.

Edwin Diaz, Closer (5 years, $102 million): A

The Mets retained the most dominant closer in the sport, though it took the richest contract ever given to a relief pitcher. That said, the Mets locked down an important role with a 29-year-old stud who’s coming off an amazing season (17.1 strikeouts per nine innings, 0.84 WHIP, 0.90 FIP, 1.31 ERA in 61 games).

Diaz has done the unthinkable in New York, too. He’s gone from pariah to beloved. That he not only survived a disastrous first season with the Mets in 2019 (5.59 ERA, 15 home runs allowed in 58 innings) but rebounded to reclaim his spot the next three seasons as an elite closer says much about his makeup, as well as his talent. And that he didn’t choose to skip town the first chance he got says much about him, as well.

Kodai Senga, RHP (5 years, $75 million): B+

Senga was pursued by a slew of MLB teams when he decided to leave Japan this offseason and the Mets landed him on a nice deal. Even factoring in that Senga will need to adjust to North America, pitch with a different baseball and take the mound every five days (as opposed to once a week as he’s been used to), this is a good contract for a very good pitcher.

The 30-year-old has a complete arsenal. He can top out at or near 100 MPH, but his wipeout pitch is a “Ghost Forkball” that looks like a fastball out of his hand and simply vanishes from the swing plane as it nears the plate.

His makeup has drawn raves, as well. And he sought the counsel of Yu Darvish before making the move to pitch here in the Majors, so he should be as prepared as possible to fill the No. 3 or 4 slot in the Mets rotation.

Jose Quintana, LHP (2 years, $26 million): B-

Quintana is coming off a very good, bounce-back season in 2022. He had a 2.93 ERA and 3.4 WAR, allowed eight home runs in 165.2 innings and made 32 starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.

He’ll be 34 this season, doesn’t pitch deep into games and struggled mightily in 2021 (6.43 ERA in 29 games). But he slots in nicely as either the No. 4 or 5 starter in the Mets rotation, giving them a different look as a lefthander following Scherzer, Verlander and Senga.

David Robertson, Relief Pitcher (1 year, $10 million): B+

Robertson gives the Mets another veteran option late in games, one who’s had previous success in New York with the Yankees. He’s a quality set-up man, one who’s equally as effective against left-handed hitters as well as righties. And he has experience as a closer should Diaz be unavailable at any point.

He had a 2.40 ERA and 2.6 WAR last season for the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched in 58 games and struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings after losing much of the previous three seasons due to an elbow injury and Tommy John surgery.

His $10 million salary might be a touch high, but is mitigated by coming on a one-year deal.

Omar Narvaez, C (2 years, $15 million): C+

Who saw this one coming? But the Narvaez signing accomplishes several things. It gives the Mets another solid veteran defensive catcher. And since Narvaez hits left-handed, it sets up a more natural platoon with Tomas Nido and eventually rookie Francisco Alvarez.

More subtly, his arrival led to the departure of catcher James McCann, who was an absolute bust the past two season. Plus, Narvaez has already vowed to mentor Alvarez, the Mets top prospect who’s also from Venezuela.

Narvaez has a history of alternating good and bad offensive seasons. If that continues, look for him to swing it well this season after batting just .206 with four home runs with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2022. He was an All-Star in 2021, when he had 11 homers and 49 RBI, and hit an MLB career-high 22 home runs in 2019.

Adam Ottavino, Relief Pitcher (2 years, $14.5 million): B+

Ottavino reclaimed his spot as one of the better relievers in MLB last season, his first with the Mets. So, bringing the New York native back as part of the bridge to Diaz really felt like a no-brainer.

After a pair of down seasons in 2020-21, Ottavino featured a wipeout slider in 2022 and had some of the best numbers of his career. He had a 0.975 WHIP, 2.06 ERA, plus 6.6 hits and 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Most importantly, he was pretty much automatic in getting the ball to Diaz with a lead.

Tommy Pham, OF (1 year, $6 million): C+

The Mets likely would have preferred Adam Duvall or Andrew McCutcheon, but Pham is a solid veteran coming off the bench. He’ll be the fourth outfielder this season and could get some at-bats as right-handed DH, especially if Darrin Ruf is moved at some point.

Pham should help with the Mets’ issues against left-handed pitching and can still be counted on to add some pop entering his age-35 season. Even in a down year in 2022 with the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox (.236, .312, .374), Pham still had 17 home runs and 63 RBI. From 2017-19, he averaged 22 home runs a season.

Danny Mendick, INF (1 year, $1 million): B-

This is a nice depth signing. Luis Guillorme is the Mets utility man, but Mendick gives them a Major League option at Triple-A. Mendick has primarily been in the majors with the Chicago White Sox the past four seasons, though he only accumulated 446 plate appearances. He’s a good insurance policy should Guillorme or another infielder go down with an injury.

Mendick has a good glove and is versatile — he’s played 2B, SS, 3B, the outfield and even pitched an inning in 2021. He can hit a little, too (.289/.343/.443 in 106 plate appearances last season).

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Nish Patel

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