Astros rotation plans are another notch to help the Mets payroll next season

Every inning matters for the 2025 Mets payroll.
May 1, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA;  Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) delivers a
May 1, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) delivers a / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros have gotten off to a dreadful start and their upcoming schedule will do them no favors. Playing 29 games in 30 days, the team could implement a six-man rotation to help get through this gauntlet. It’s only a small cog and yet every inning will count for the New York Mets payroll next season.

Going from five starters to six in the span of 29 games only takes away, in theory, one start from Justin Verlander. His innings count is something the Mets will be paying close attention to this season. His contract for 2025 requires a minimum of 140 this year for the $35 million to vest.

An IL stint to begin the year has held the ex-Mets pitcher to 17.1. An acceptable enough average thus far in three starts, the Mets one less start could be the difference.

How much do the Mets owe Justin Verlander if his contract vests?

Per the trade made between the Astros and Mets last year, New York will pay half of the $35 million in 2025 if the option vests. That’s $17.5 million for those whose calculators are in the repair shop.

As free-spending as the Mets have been under Steve Cohen, we’ve seen them have limits. For the right price they will go over any sort of luxury tax. J.D. Martinez became too tempting even with the luxury tax penalties that came with it.

The creativity of the Mets is something fans have come to appreciate. Even with the sell-off at last year’s trade deadline of Verlander which required them to eat a whole lot of money with the risk of even more, a good majority of fans were in favor of the decision.

Verlander ended up with 162.1 innings with the Mets and Astros last season in 27 starts. Not an implausible amount of innings for him to accrue even with a late start and now a possible six-man rotation, his efficiency might be one of the main reasons why he will or will not reach the innings total.

Verlander threw 78 pitches in 6 innings during his debut then followed it up with 95 pitches in 4.1 innings. In his third and latest start, Verlander lasted 7 innings and threw 97 pitches. His strikeout numbers have been down with the walk total being a little high. There are a lot of outcomes which could lead to reaching the 140 innings or falling short. One of the most unexpected is if the Astros fall out of the playoff race. On one hand, they have every reason to push him to get to 140 innings for the half-price deal on him next year. On another, could they actually find a taker at the trade deadline?

On yet a third hand never noticed before, is pushing him just to reach an innings total the best thing for Houston if they're out of the playoff race? Sure, they get a "bargain" but they'd still owe him $17.5 million. That's no soft number if he ends up hurt anyway.