The Mets have agreed to a five-year, $75 million right-hander deal Koda Sengareports Andy Martino of SNY (Twitter links). Senga’s contract also has no-trade protection and an opt-out clause after the 2025 season, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (through Twitter). The deal will become official when Senga passes a physical. Senga is represented by the Wasserman Agency.
The contract figure exactly matches MLBTR’s projection, as Senga ranks 11th on the list of the Top 50 Free Agents off-season. There are no further placement fees involved in the Mets’ charges, as Senga became a completely free agent after exercising an opt-out clause in his contract with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
Senga will turn 30 in January and he will leave the Hawks after 11 outstanding seasons. The righty has a 2.59 ERA, 28.22% strikeout rate and 9.33% walk rate over 1089 innings at Japan’s highest level. Senga’s four-pitch arsenal is highlighted by an excellent splitter and fast ball that routinely hits the upper-90s. Scouting reports indicate that Senga’s checking is inconsistent at times, but otherwise many pundits feel his stuff translates quite well to North American baseball.
Given Senga’s potential and general demand to pitch this off-season, it’s not surprising that multiple teams have been eyeing his market. The Red Sox, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners and Padres were the other clubs known to be interested, and agent Joel Wolfe suggested that as many as a dozen MLB teams had applied to his client. Multiple five- and six-year offers were on the table for Senga, and while he opted for a five-year option from the Mets, the opt-out gives Senga the opportunity to re-enter and potentially bring in additional years and more. money as he enters his 33-year season.
Heading into the off-season, the Mets faced the challenge of a major free agent class with a star closer (Edwin Diaz) and most of the bullpen altogether, their starting midfielder (Brandon Nimmo), and most of their starting rotation in the form of Jacob de Grom, Taijuan Walkerand Chris Bassett. But with the Winter Meetings just over, New York has already closed most of those gaps by re-signing Diaz and Nimmo and replacing that trio of starters with Justin Verlander, Jose Quintana, and now Senga. As if that wasn’t enough, the Mets further strengthened the relief corps by drawing David Robertson and acquire Brooks Raley in a trade from the Rays.
There was no question that owner Steve Cohen was willing to spend money to keep his 101-game winning team in line to become World Series contenders. Spending has just continued to reach record levels, however, as the Mets now expect to have a payroll of about $334.68 million in 2023 and a luxury tax number of just over $349.5 million.
Not only does this dwarf the $233 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold, it even soars past the fourth and highest ($293 million) level of the CBT. The fourth tier was instituted in the latest collective bargaining agreement as an additional penalty for excessive spending, and was unofficially nicknamed the “Steve Cohen Tax” as the owner made no secret of his intention to raise payrolls by a significant amount. Since this is the Mets’ second consecutive year of tax overrun, they will face a two-fold recurrence penalty, as well as a 90 percent tax overrun on every dollar spent above $233 million. This equates to about $104.85 million in tax penalties — according to Fangraphs, 11 teams currently do not plan to spend more than $104.85 million on their entire payroll in 2023.
With the Mets already in uncharted financial territory, Cohen and GM Billy Eppler may have even more big moves in store. With the luxury tax appearing to be little more than a speed bump to the Amazins’ plans, the club could continue to add expensive talent and not even bother to get below the $293 million threshold for any form. mild reduction in CBT bill.
On paper, the bullpen looks like it could use a bit more reinforcement, and catcher also looks like a weaker position other than top prospect Francisco Alvarez is expected to get more big league playing time in 2023. The rotation now seems to be complete Max ScherzerVerlander, Senga, Quintana and Carlos Carrasco making up the first five. Speculatively, the Mets might even feel comfortable enough in their depth to buy one of their backup starters (i.e. David Peterson, Tylor Megill, Elise Hernandez) in trade talks with a pitching needy team. Or, given the older ages and some of the injury uncertainty surrounding the Mets’ starters, New York could also simply choose to preserve as much pitching depth as possible.