Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander celebrates the last out in...

Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander celebrates the last out in the fifth inning in Game 5 of the World Series against the Phillies on Nov. 3 in Philadelphia. Credit: AP/Matt Slocum


Have to admit, the Mets’ cold-blooded efficiency in replacing Jacob deGrom with Justin Verlander was pretty impressive, right down to general manager Billy Eppler delivering an expressionless, monotone epitaph to the two-time Cy Young Award winner’s Mets career on Monday at MLB’s winter meetings.

Based on the tenor of the conversation, I half-expected Eppler to respond “Jacob who?” when pressed on the team’s reaction to losing the team’s homegrown ace — you know, the guy who called Flushing home for nearly a decade. Perhaps it’s because Eppler, on the job for only 13 months, is still relatively new here.

Or maybe deGrom is just dead to these Mets after bolting to the Rangers on Friday for a five-year deal worth $185 million that not even mega-billionaire Steve Cohen would challenge.

Judging by Eppler’s stone-faced reaction Monday to questions about deGrom, the GM wasn’t interested in reliving his exit — yet still was unable to comment on Verlander’s new two-year contract worth $86.6 million with the Mets because the deal was awaiting a physical before being finalized.

Official or not, Eppler figured to be in a more jovial mood. A mere four days after losing the Mets’ modern-day Seaver to Texas, of all places, Cohen & Co. grabbed a future Hall of Famer in Verlander to fill his spot in the rotation. Rarely does such a swap happen this smoothly.

Last Friday, Metsville was losing its collective mind over deGrom’s defection to the Rangers, wondering how the sport’s richest owner could lose a generational talent — and arguably the franchise’s second greatest pitcher — to another team over money. That was a Wilpon thing, right?

Three-time Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander agreed to two-year contract with the Mets. Newsday's Tim Healey explains why the Mets made the move. Credit: Newsday

But before deGrom could be unveiled in a Rangers uniform — expected to happen later this week at Globe Life Field — Cohen flexed his wallet to quickly head off any blowback, enlisting Verlander to make deGrom an afterthought as soon as possible.

“He’s a great pitcher,” Eppler said of deGrom. “He gave Mets fans a lot of really good memories. We wish him the best and [are] happy that he was able to make a decision that he felt was best for him and his family. We’ll miss him.”

With Verlander now on board, that’s debatable. What would the Mets be missing, exactly? Guessing which part of deGrom’s body would put him on the IL next? Given the choice, what’s the better investment: deGrom’s five years at a mind-blowing $185 million (with a vesting option that could take it to $222M) or Verlander’s guaranteed two for $86.6 million? Everyone but the Rangers would pick the latter.

Of course, deGrom took that decision out of the Mets’ hands. He left without bothering to give Eppler a chance to counter, and the GM found out about it only minutes before the Rangers announced it to the world.

Eppler has reason to be salty over how this went down, soothed only by the fact that the Mets had no intention of getting into a bidding war over deGrom and had the financial resolve to quickly pivot to Verlander.

Also, failing to land an elite starter to pair with Max Scherzer was not an option, even if Verlander turns 40 in February, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery and doesn’t seem to be BFFs with the Mets’ resident alpha pitcher. It’s a lot. We agree. But let’s take a minute to break that down.

Sure, Verlander is old, with an odometer at 3,163 innings — more than twice as many as the 34-year-old deGrom. But he also just won his third Cy Young Award a few weeks ago (18-4, 1.75 ERA) and has one trophy in each of his last two full seasons (sandwiched around the Tommy John surgery). We’re not talking ancient history here. Plus, he’s got a brand-new elbow, so presumably there won’t be any UCL discomfort at this stage.

As for butting heads with Scherzer during their Detroit days, if adding Verlander increases the chances of the Mets winning the World Series, as it surely does, then how could Scherzer possibly be against the move?

The Mets already are two seasons into Cohen’s five-year pledge to deliver a third World Series title to Flushing, and losing deGrom wasn’t going to stall those plans. Not with Verlander available for a shorter-term investment.

It’s unclear what Verlander’s signing will mean for the remainder of the Mets’ renovation, with more key items left on the agenda. But Cohen had to pony up the cash to make deGrom’s departure as irrelevant as possible, and Verlander was the perfect pitcher for that job, at the right time. For the Mets, that couldn’t happen soon enough, and when they did pull the trigger Monday, it almost felt as if deGrom had been erased in the process.

It was a business move, a baseball decision. But this one came off as a little personal, too.


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