Mets: How will the Jacob deGrom contract dilemma be resolved?
By Joseph Romano
One of the biggest ongoing stories for the New York Mets involves the Opening Day deadline to get a contract extension completed with Jacob deGrom. How will it all end?
After a stellar year on the mound, New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom is hopeful for a new deal and current trends suggest such a deal could be had. Although, a threat from his agent has made the situation a great deal more complicated.
The current 30-year-old right-hander is under contract with the Mets for this season and next. This season he will be playing with a wage of $17 million and will certainly receive a raise next season. However, once he becomes a free agent it will come at the age of 32.
This offseason is one in a number of free agency classes in which players, especially pitchers, beyond the age of 30 struggle to receive contracts. They can rarely find that long term contract with profound amounts of guaranteed money that they intensely desire. Therefore, pitchers have been agreeing to extensions with their current clubs more so than ever before.
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Aaron Nola has agreed to a four year $45 million contract extension that will take him to his age 29 season and Luis Severino has agreed to a four year $40 million extension with the Yankees through his age 29 season, as well.
There is even more precedent for deGrom to sign an extension with the Mets in the form of Stephen Strasburg and Corey Kluber. Strasburg signed a seven-year $175 million extension with the Nationals at the age of 27, which was good enough to provide an average salary of $25 million per year. At the age of 28, Kluber accepted a five-year, incentive-laden contract extension that if maxed out could reach up to $77 million. The interesting part of this Kluber deal is that it came directly off of a trademark season, which saw him receive his first Cy Young award.
While deGrom surely has a more substantial resume than the previous names mentioned, at the time of their signings, his rapid approach to the age of 32 limits him in many ways. Also, having had Tommy John Surgery limits him historically, as no pitcher that has undergone that surgery has received a long-term extension with an average annual value of above $25 million. That mark was set by the previously mentioned Strasburg contract and a free agent contract of Jordan Zimmerman to the Detroit Tigers at $110 million over five years.
deGrom suffered the TJ surgery prior to his promotion to the major leagues, which along with his conversion from shortstop significantly delayed his MLB debut. However, this has also greatly limited the number of innings on his arm that someone such as Max Scherzer has. Scherzer, who signed a seven-year $210 million deal with many more innings logged on his arm, at the time. This could possibly indicate that the 2018 CY Young recipient is not in the same situation as most 32-year-olds, who tend to have a precipitous decline at that age.
Many pitchers, such as J.A. Happ, can find a great degree of success at later ages and deGrom has an impeccable ability to pitch to the specific batter, as opposed to simply relying on the velocity and break of his pitches. He has set himself up to age gracefully, rather than lose his way, as many have, once his velocity becomes diminished. While this cannot be guaranteed until there is solid evidence, there is a belief among many that this will be the case.
The Mets and deGrom both desire to finalize an extension, as he has proven to be willing. The Mets would be well-served to prevent a gigantic hole at the top of their rotation in two seasons. An extension offer now may be more bloated than it will be in two seasons, however, if deGrom remains excellent over the next two years, which is what they are hoping for, his contract ask could very well be higher than his asking price for now.
The threat of a self-imposed innings limit is unprecedented, which has begun to frighten many Mets fans because if the strength of their team does not remain their strength then there is little hope in a highly competitive division. Yet, it is likely just a ploy or tactic by deGrom’s representatives to strengthen their position. Any concerns will wash away with the agreement to such a deal.
It remains a possibility that the Mets could employ a wait and see approach, as they fully decide if they want to commit for the next five to seven years. A hesitation from either side can wreck a chance at a deal and therefore, both parties should work as hard as they can to cement an agreement, while each is in favor of it.
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Evidence suggests that a deal will be completed prior to Opening Day, however, if it is not then a deal may not be possible before his contract expires and he hits the open market.