Jacob deGrom has made a fair proposal to the New York Mets: Extend me or trade me. And the Mets should do what’s in the best interest of deGrom and their organization, and that is to extend the All-Star righty on a five-year deal.
This season, deGrom is putting together one of the most impressive seasons for a starting pitcher in Mets’ history. Currently owning an MLB-best 1.68 ERA and 0.97 WHIP to go along with 149 strikeouts, he’s been arguably the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately for deGrom, the Mets have continually been unable to provide him with run support. In the 19 starts he’s made this season, deGrom has 10 no-decisions and has been able to notch just five wins — further proving how the pitcher win-loss statistic is the most misleading assessment of performance in baseball today.
deGrom has always been a top-of-the-rotation force, but this version of the righty is like nothing the Mets have ever seen. He’s overpowering hitters with his breaking pitches and blowing his fastball by them with ease. He’s on pace to record a career-high in strikeouts, and is the most consistent and reliable figure on the Mets 25-man roster. With that said, the argument could be made that based on the Mets being in last place in the National League East at 40-56 they should be shopping their most productive players. But say the Mets trade deGrom for a king’s ransom, and it results in a complete fire sale, is that going to completely replenish the Mets farm system?
This is a Mets team that owns one of the worst farm systems in the game, has a bevy of injury prone players, and will likely be missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. Throughout their struggles and the notions surrounding the franchise, deGrom has been the biggest bright spot. He came up through their farm system, has excelled, and is poised to cash in on a big payday wherever he goes. But the years likely aren’t going to be there for the Mets ace.
The reason why extending deGrom five years, as opposed to eight-to-ten, makes sense is because of his age. When deGrom hits the open market after the 2020 season, he’ll be 32. While starting pitchers, especially premier ones, can play into their late 30s, it wouldn’t be wise for the Mets to give the righty a deal that they know will be a hassle years down the line. Look at the Seattle Mariners with Felix Hernandez. Granted he’s a free agent after 2019, Hernandez is nowhere near the ace he once was, and, in fact, is the most unreliable starter in the Mariners rotation, and management is paying him roughly $25 million a year. In theory, a five-year extension keeps the 30-year-old deGrom in place for the bulk of his prime.Jacob deGrom's message is clear; he wants a trade or an extension. The @Mets would be smart to give deGrom a five-year deal, writes @RPStratakos.Click To Tweet
In a perfect world, the Mets would wait for deGrom to hit free agency, and then re-sign him to a long-term deal. On the other hand, deGrom has said he wants to stay in Flushing going forward, but if they’re not committed to giving him an extension, he may want out. With deGrom pitching at a historic level, why in the world would the Mets not engage in extension talks? They’ve been one of the worst teams in the majors over the last year and a half, and they’re anything but an attractive destination to top, or second-tier free agents. Their best player happens to want to stay where it all began for him regardless of the team’s struggles, and the Mets shouldn’t take that for granted.
If the Mets want to wheel and deal, they should look into trading Noah Syndergaard well before deGrom. While the righty is a strikeout machine and hits 100 MPH with his fastball, he simply can’t stay healthy. In 2016, he pitched through pain, started seven games the ensuing year, and has taken the hill just 13 times this season. At the same time, he’s under team-control through 2021 and some team would likely roll the dice on him staying healthy. It’s not to say that the Mets should be shopping Syndergaard, but trading away deGrom and not taking action elsewhere in their rotation would be a puzzling course of action.
Whether you’re in the thick of World Series contention, trying to figure out a direction, or are in the midst of a rebuild, having reliable starting pitching is crucial. If you have lackluster starting pitching and are fielding an inexperienced team, you could easily finish a season with less than 60 wins. The only thing worse than being a team that can’t drive in runs is one that can’t stop others from doing the same. It worsens the workload for a team’s bullpen and can potentially develop a losing mentality — which can be contagious. By trading deGrom, the Mets would be worsening what’s their biggest strength — that being their starting rotation.
While a double-digit amount of years isn’t feasible, the amount of money per year will certainly be large for deGrom. Look at the amount of money some of the game’s most prestigious starters are making. On average, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer are making $30 million a year; Zach Greinke is making $34 million a year; Justin Verlander is making $28 million a year; Jake Arrieta is making $25 million a year. Giving deGrom a five-year extension worth $30 million a year meets the requirements for what an elite starter makes in 2018; if he’s not going to get the years, he’ll at least get paid to the level of an ace on a yearly basis for however long his contract goes until.
Outside of retaining Yoenis Cespedes in back-to-back offseasons, the Mets have been unwilling to spend big money in free agency. Sure, they brought in Anthony Swarzak, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Jason Vargas on multi-year deals in the offseason, but none of them are reeling in payroll-strapping money on a yearly basis. And after the 2020 season, all four of their contracts, as well as the ones of Cespedes and David Wright, will be off the books meaning it’s going to come down to whether the Mets value deGrom the way the rest of baseball does.
deGrom has become a top-five pitcher in baseball. The Mets would be foolish to entertain getting rid of that pitching talent for the sake of stockpiling prospects.
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