In a surprise move that broke (Cubs fans’ brains) late Saturday night, Japanese righty Kodai Senga has agreed to sign with the Mets for $75 million over five years. That is the exact prediction laid out by MLB Trade Rumors, though recent signings make the $15 million AAV feel very light by comparison. Of course, Senga will be 30 years old in January and there are questions about how his fastball will play at the MLB level, so there’s less certainty than with Jameson Taillon or Taijuan Walker.
Cubs fans are understandably upset that Jed Hoyer wasn’t able to beat what looks like a very reasonable offer, but there are some other factors that led Senga to Queens. Not only does the deal have a full no-trade clause, but it also features an opt-out after the 2025 season. There’s a great deal of additional value in those two additions, the latter of which is something the Cubs almost certainly weren’t willing to include.
Though they’ve been notoriously stingy on NTCs in the past, to the point that it may have cost them extension agreements, they did one for Seiya Suzuki last year and likely would have done so for Senga. The opt-out, however, isn’t something a team supposedly on the verge of competing again would want to do. With Marcus Stroman under contract for two more years at the most, the potential to lose two key pieces of the rotation either at the same time or in successive seasons isn’t something a forward-thinking organization would want.
The Mets, on the other hand, have zero effs to give when it comes to replacing players because they’ll just go out and sign someone else. Lose Jacob deGrom to the Rangers on a massive deal worth $37 million a year? No problem, just sign Justin Verlander to an even massiver deal worth a record-tying $43.33 million. And that’s with initial record-holder Max Scherzer in the rotation as well. Oh, and the Mets brought Brandon Nimmo back on an eight-year, $162 million contract that far exceeded expectations.
Steve Cohen is doing his damnedest to disprove the idea that you can’t buy a title. That may have been the biggest factor in Senga’s decision because even though the Mets trip over their own dick more than just about any organization in pro sports, it’s very clear that they want to win. The Cubs can only make promises while selling hope, but the Mets offer a chance to pitch alongside two of the game’s greats on a team that expects to remain in title contention for the foreseeable future.
As far as we know, the Cubs offered $100 million over six years and Senga turned it down because he simply preferred New York. Players can do that, you know. This isn’t a death knell for the Cubs and it may not even be a tacit indictment of the front office, not unless we find out their offer was for $60 million and didn’t include an NTC. What this does tell us is that Hoyer and Carter Hawkins still have a great deal of work to do if they intend to build a roster that can win more than 75 games.
And just in case you’re holding out hope that their pitching pursuit might now lead them to Carlos Rodón, consider that the big lefty is reportedly seeking at least seven years on a new deal. That probably means committing a minimum of $175 million and maybe even more than $200 million with the way other pitchers have been getting paid. Do the Cubs, who’ve been reluctant to offer long deals to much safer position players, take that kind of gamble?
Do they take any gambles? There may still be a lot of time left in the offseason, but the list of impact players has grown pretty damn thin as Hoyer tries to make good on the insistence from ownership that the team has plenty of money to spend.