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Three questions facing Mets after Jacob deGrom lands with Rangers in MLB free agency

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In what serves as one of the first big surprises of Major League Baseball’s offseason, veteran right-hander Jacob deGrom signed a five-year contract with the Texas Rangers on Friday night. deGrom, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, will now front a remade Rangers rotation that disappointed last season en route to a 94-loss effort.

While deGrom’s impact on the Rangers is straightforward — he should be an upgrade provided he stays healthy for any length of time — it’s worth contemplating what his departure means for his former team, the New York Mets. Keep in mind, deGrom may not be the only notable player to leave the Mets through free agency this winter: starter Chris Bassitt and center fielder Brandon Nimmo both remain on the market, as does Taijuan Walker.

As such, here are three questions about the Mets we’re pondering as Sunday’s start of the Winter Meetings nears.

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1. Will they sign Verlander, or another top arm?

The most obvious follow-up move the Mets could make is signing one of the other remaining top-10 free-agent starters. According to CBS Sports’ rankings, that means Justin Verlander or Carlos Rodón, both of whom have been tied to the Mets recently. 

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Verlander would seem like a logical deGrom replacement for several reasons. For one, he’s the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner. For another, the latest reports have his talks with the Houston Astros stalling out, creating an opening for other teams to swoop in and land him. For a final point, consider that Verlander has been rumored to be seeking a Max Scherzer-like deal, last handed out by…the Mets. They’d probably be up to do it again.

Until Verlander signs, with the Mets or elsewhere, it’s worth considering the alternatives, be it Rodón, who has emerged as a top power lefty, or someone like Kodai Senga, who will probably settle in as more of a mid-rotation arm in the majors. There are always options available on the trade market, too.

The only certainty here is that the Mets are guaranteed to add at least one, and probably two starting pitchers between now and the spring.

2. How does this impact Bassitt, Nimmo?

Indeed, one of those starters could well be Bassitt. He posted a 113 ERA+ and a 3.41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30 starts last season after the Mets acquired him from the Oakland Athletics. Bassitt has since declined his end of the mutual option, as well as their qualifying offer tender. The Mets are known to have interest in bringing him back, and there’s no reason to think that deGrom’s exit will temper that desire. 

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Nimmo, for his part, has had more teams linked to him publicly as the top center-field option available in a market that doesn’t have many of them. The Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays are among other notable clubs to express some interest or another in him. Of course, the Mets have shown a willingness to outspend any and all contenders under Steven Cohen’s ownership, so it’s possible they find a way to retain him, too.

Basically, neither Bassitt nor Nimmo’s chances of returning to the Mets would seem harmed by this development. They may even be improved if the Mets end up spending less money on deGrom’s replacement than they intended to spend on deGrom.

3. Does this open the door for a run at Judge?

It would be tempting to think that Cohen and the Mets would respond to losing their homegrown ace by signing Aaron Judge to a blockbuster deal. We’re skeptical.

The Mets haven’t been connected to Judge in an aggressive manner — rather, their most notable contribution to his market was the investigation into possible collusion between Cohen and New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner. Further, while the Mets clearly have a sky-high budget, that doesn’t mean it’s infinite. 

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With plenty of outstanding financial commitments and several other holes to address on their roster, the Mets front office may decide that splurging on a single player — even one as good as Judge is — might not make the most sense for them.

Then again, weird things happen all the time in baseball. Take, for example, how the Rangers have successfully landed three of the top free agents over the last two winters. That’s the beauty of the offseason: nothing is certain until ink meets paper. And even then, wait for it to dry.

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