This is a kick in the pants. I’m really disappointed, especially at what seems like a VERY reasonable price level considering the direction of the market lately. The New York Mets have signed free agent starter Kodai Senga to a five-year, $75 million deal, according to multiple reports.
The Cubs entered this offseason with fairly significant needs in the rotation, particularly at the front end. And while we had resigned ourselves to understanding why they wouldn’t be a fit for Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, and Carlos Rodon (who’s still unsigned), Senga did seem like a distinct possibility. They were connected often, he didn’t come attached to draft pick compensation, he wouldn’t require a posting fee, he shares an agent with Yu Darvish and Seiya Suzuki, and so on. The fit was close to ideal, especially with the upside.
As a matter of fact, Senga was the highest ceiling starter the Cubs had in their sights this winter. But now, with him off the market, they’ll have to settle for – at best – another starter in that mid-range, someone with a solid floor, but not much upside beyond that (Chris Basitt, maybe?).
I suppose that’s notwithstanding some entirely unexpected trade for an ace (there are a few available). But I just wouldn’t count on that.
And again, $75 million is just not a lot in this market. This wasn’t the Mets bullying their way around. Hell, that’s just SEVEN MILLION MORE than the Cubs gave to Jameson Taillon over four years. I get that the Cubs like Taillon a lot and think they can unlock another level, but I think most would agree Senga has more upside.
NOTE: The Mets are also way over the highest tier of the luxury tax, which means they’ll be taxed at 90% on every dollar they pay Senga this season, at least.
Ultimately, I fear that this came down to years, as the Cubs/Jed Hoyer have seemed to indicate a desire to stay away from lengthier deals this winter, which … whatever. I don’t disagree that five years for a 30-year-old starter, who’s never pitched in MLB, is significant. But at the end of the day, you have to pay what the market bears, and you get absolutely nothing for coming in second with an offer you felt good about. Not that we even know if they made an offer.
Okay. Deep breaths. On the bright side, I do think the Cubs have a pretty solid foundation in the rotation next season with options like Marcus Stroman, Jameson Taillon, Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks, Hayden Wesneski, and Adrian Sampson, plus some other prospect percolating up through the minors. But I don’t think they can stop here. And I don’t think they will. I’m willing to bet the Cubs land another clear mid-rotation (or better) starter before the offseason is through. I just really hoped that guy would be Kodai Senga.
UPDATE: The Mets gave Senga a full no-trade clause (I find that especially reasonable for players coming from overseas) and an opt-out after three years.