Jacob deGrom has the complete attention of the Mets as they attempt to lock him up before he reaches free agency in 2021. It’s not quite that simple, though…
Jacob deGrom had the kind of season last year that reminds of the ones Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax turned in during their heyday a half-century ago. Total domination from day one straight through those final starts when some urged him to sit out, so as not to jeopardize his chances for a Cy Young.
DeGrom made those final starts, putting an exclamation point on his season while locking in the award, joining Tom Seaver ( a three-time winner), Dwight Gooden, and R.A. Dickey as the fourth New York Met to capture a Cy Young. All smiles in this video…
Before 2019, Jacob deGrom had pitched four seasons with the Blue and Orange. Over that span, he earned $12.6 million in salaries. To no one’s surprise, the Mets wasted no time in awarding deGrom an unprecedented raise of $10 million to $17 million to pitch for them in 2019.
With anything close to the season deGrom had last year, his third and final year of arbitration is likely to produce another healthy increase to around $25 million for his walk-year in 2020 and setting the stage for a bidding war that, together with Mike Trout will make the Manny Machado/Bryce Harper duet look like kindergarten.
As the face of the New York Mets team (front cover of anything they publish), it behooves the Mets to “extend” Jacob deGrom before he engages himself in free agency. The team is in the process of trying to do that, and it not likely they will give in to the traditional “no negotiating during the season” axiom which surrounds most of baseball.
deGrom is well represented by the same agency Brodie Van Wagenen was a part-owner at before he became the GM of the Mets. Neither side has balked at that oddity, and Van Wagenen will be fully involved from here on in.
There’s a potential stumbling block, though. Jacob deGrom will pitch the 2019 season at age 31, meaning if there is no extension he will be 33 as a free agent in 2021. Prime-time years for a major league ballplayer are generally assigned as ages 26-31, putting deGrom (if he’s “normal) beyond his prime – even now.
No one can rule out the chance that deGrom might become a replica of someone like Nolan Ryan, who tossed his seventh no-hitter at the tender age of 45, but the odds seem to say otherwise, especially since deGrom has endured one arm surgery that reduced him to only 24 starts in 2016.
So, the question for the Mets then becomes – how many years can they offer deGrom as he moves out of range age-wise? Three, four, as many as five years? And if they offer a multi-year deal, will it be a front-loaded contract with nearly all of the money paid in years one and two – when the Mets can expect to get the most from deGrom on the field?
As always, the player is in the driver’s seat in these situations. But deGrom lives in the same pressure cooker as the Mets. He is the only person who knows how he feels, physically. Does he see himself able to pitch effectively as the years move on, or does he sense his body will betray him again?
Toss in the mental side, and there’s another layer to deal with as a new father and a family he may not want to be estranged from any longer than necessary.
Jacob deGrom appears to have the same traits in life as he shows when he’s pitching. Fully engaged, no wasted motion, and dead-on serious on the mound, it strikes me he would prefer to get this thing done ASAP, so he can move forward to another Cy Young with the comfort of knowing his family is taken care of, and there’s something left for the next generation of deGrom’s.
The Mets will not risk losing Jacob deGrom to free agency. With his remarkable season last year, deGrom is now part of the Mets lore and legacy as a franchise. Rest assured, though, the extension process is filled with hurdles both sides need to overcome before anything is finalized. Here’s hoping it happens.
Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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