It’s been just a few months since Justin Verlander. After missing the 2021 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, the pitcher helped guide the Houston Astros to a World Series title — picking up his third Cy Young Award and first World Series victory in the process. And then, in early December, he agreed to a two-year, $86 million contract with the New York Mets.
And he seems to be enjoying the ride more than ever. He spent that year of rehab at his Florida home with his family (wife Kate Upton, daughter Genevieve), working not only on his arm but other things (dad stuff, husband stuff, self stuff) that have a way of sidelining during baseball season. He does not think it a coincidence that, having taken time to work on himself, he promotes as he ever does. Which helps, given that he has exactly one goal – the big one – for his time at Queen’s.
What was your goal at the start of the season? Heading to a free agency, what do you want? How did you think about it?
I sat down with Kate and we really talked about it. Number one for me, which was also number one for her, is we need to be on a good team. So this really wiped out a lot of scope. Then we just talked through the scenarios. I’m a person who likes to gather information, but also plays the cards you’re given. If you play Hold ‘Em, you get your first two cards and understand your odds at that moment, but the second the flop comes out can change.
Basically, we come up with a list of teams that fit the bill and see what happens – and suddenly we start getting calls. The Mets and a few others showed a lot of interest, and that was really cool. I’ve never experienced free agency this way. And with the Mets, for both sides, we’ve had to see how the Jacob deGrom thing plays out. Both sides wanted to know how that worked, whether it was staying or going. For the Mets, it’s a hunk. And look, Jacob is a legend out there — I don’t want to be the reason he can’t come back because I jumped the gun. This is not the correct way to do it. If he wants to go back to the Mets, he deserves to go back to the Mets. I was going to try to let this happen, and he did, and the Mets have already expressed such interest in me, and the second that happened, I got two calls. They have obviously turned their attention more towards me and things are aligning very quickly.
What do you think of the Mets before 2020, for example?
To be honest with you, I didn’t pay much attention, besides the year they were all their junior pitchers, and they made the World Series. I was in the American League, so I never played with them. Then last year we went to play with them and I felt the energy of the stadium and their team. I’ve played against them, so I had to do a bit of scouting, so I felt like I had a good understanding of them coming into this off-season – which, obviously, they had a great team, but they fell a little bit short last year, but he’s still had a great season and seems to be going In a wonderful direction. Why wouldn’t I want to be a part of that?