NEW YORK (AP) — Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga and the New York Mets have agreed to a $75 million, five-year contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.
The person spoke to The Associated Press early Sunday on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending a physical.
It is the latest big move for free-spending owner Steve Cohen and the busy Mets during a dizzying week. Senga figures to slot into the middle of a revamped rotation headed by three-time Cy Young Award winners Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
Hours earlier, the Mets completed a $162 million, eight-year contract Saturday to bring back free agent center fielder Brandon Nimmo. New York also finalized deals with free agent pitchers Verlander, José Quintana and David Robertson in the past few days, after re-signing All-Star closer Edwin Díaz to a $102 million, five-year deal last month.
Within the last week, the Mets have committed $359.7 million to five free agents, including Senga. Throw in Díaz, who re-signed before other teams were permitted to negotiate with him, and it’s $461.7 million to six free agents this offseason — five pitchers.
Those moves push New York’s projected 2023 payroll to around $340 million right now — well beyond the highest luxury-tax threshold of $293 million. And that’s without any other major additions this winter.
Under Cohen, who bought the club in November 2020, the Mets became baseball’s biggest spender this year for the first time since 1989. Their payroll was $273.9 million as of Aug. 31, with final figures that include bonuses yet to be compiled.
Senga, a hard-throwing right-hander, did not have to go through the posting system with the Japanese big leagues because he has 11 seasons of service time. Several teams in the United States were said to be pursuing him, including the Boston Red Sox.
“I like him,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings. “It’s tough to project those guys. But a good pitcher is a good pitcher.”
Senga, who turns 30 in January, was 11-6 with a 1.94 ERA in 22 starts for the Pacific League’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks last season. He tossed three scoreless innings in two outings for Japan against the U.S. in the Olympics last year, allowing one hit and striking out six with two walks.
“You’re always thinking about the load of pitching every fifth day compared to (once a week in Japan), but they said that about some really good Japanese pitchers that came over here and did well,” Showalter said. “So he’s a good one. We’ve talked with him. And he’s impressive. You can see why they think so highly of him. I enjoyed our little talk with him.”
New York has been overhauling its pitching staff following a playoff loss to San Diego in the wild-card round.
Verlander got an $86.7 million, two-year contract that includes a conditional $35 million player option for 2025. Quintana, another experienced starter ticketed for the rotation, signed a $26 million, two-year deal. Robertson, a veteran reliever, received $10 million for one year.
Senga, Verlander and Quintana replace the three 2022 Mets starters who became free agents this offseason: Jacob deGrom left for Texas, Taijuan Walker has a deal in place with Philadelphia pending a physical, and Chris Bassitt remains available on the open market.
The rotation also includes veteran Carlos Carrasco. New York picked up his $14 million option for next season after the 35-year-old right-hander went 15-7 with a 3.97 ERA.
David Peterson and Tylor Megill, both 27, provide depth.