The New York Mets, much like last offseason, have a crucial winter coming up for their organization. You could argue that this offseason is the most important under new owner Steve Cohen given the names that are set to become free agents from the current roster. But with all the players the Mets have to make decisions on, no player’s decision holds more weight than Jacob deGrom’s.
The best pitcher in baseball (when healthy) made it abundantly clear that he would be exercising his player option at the end of this year, which will make him a free agent for the first time in his career. While rumors have been swirling about possible landing spots for the two-time Cy Young winner, general manager Billy Eppler made it abundantly clear that the Mets have both the financial backing and organizational interest in bringing back deGrom for what would most likely be the remainder of his career.
And while there’s been speculation about deGrom’s interest in remaining in New York, the question should be less about deGrom’s interest and more on whether or not the Mets should be interested in bringing him back. To clarify, the Mets should absolutely bring Jacob deGrom back to the Mets for the remainder of his career, win a World Series and then retire the number 48 at Citi Field.
The Mets a franchise altering decision to make with Jacob deGrom
But the Mets’ interest should be directly related to what it’s ultimately going to cost them, not because Cohen is working with financial restraints, but because the money allocated to deGrom could be better resourced to address multiple areas and they already have $40M+ committed to 38-year old Max Scherzer.
Are the Mets a better team with deGrom in the rotation? Yes. Are they in need of rotation help heading into 2023? Definitely. But deGrom, as dominant as he has been in his career, has become less and less of a sure thing on the field. This isn’t to say that deGrom isn’t great, but there are some very real injury concerns for a pitcher who is throwing harder than most pitchers in baseball and is turning 35 next June.
Much of the chatter on Twitter has been people coming to deGrom’s defense regarding his injuries citing the fact that before 2021, he had been a workhorse on the mound. From 2017 to 2019, deGrom averaged 207 innings pitched, which is what led to him winning back-to-back Cy Young awards. The problem with the argument of deGrom’s previous health is that it’s exactly that: the past. Injuries change the trajectory of players’ careers all the time and it would be remiss of Mets fans to allow nostalgia and reverence to distort the reality of how uncertain deGrom’s future health actually is.
Obviously when healthy, deGrom is the best pitcher on the planet and he reminded everyone when he came back from his injury in 2022 with the same stuff that put him into the lore reserved for a very select few in MLB history. But towards the end of the season, we saw deGrom become somewhat…human(!). Yes, a pitcher finishing with a 3.08 ERA would be considered stellar for almost anyone except for deGrom, which speaks to his brilliance, but also to the unfair expectations that have been set moving forward.
For the Mets, the question must become, what deGrom will they be getting for the duration of his contract? Will it be the pitcher who took the league by storm and did something historic almost every night? Or, will it be the pitcher who is still great, but is susceptible to bad outings and a question mark health-wise? The answer to these questions is imperative because the answer will determine the contract deGrom receives from the Mets.
There’s plenty of speculative questions to be asked if deGrom skipped town, most importantly, who would fill his slot in the rotation? This alone makes keeping deGrom an imperative. There’s also the relationship with the fanbase. The Mets have lived with both the glory of Tom Seaver and the regret of his trade for the existence of the franchise’s inception. Does Steve Cohen want to let that happen under his watch? There’s also the question of whether or not deGrom wants to actually stay in New York, but those suggestions seem to be more from the doom-and-gloom obsessed media and not deGrom himself.
One could argue that deGrom’s importance to the franchise is alone worth the money that it would cost to keep him, but for a fanbase that’s starved for a World Series ring, a roster that has a lot of question marks and a payroll that is going to climb to historic levels, the Mets don’t have the luxury of investing close to $50M on a (legendary) player that isn’t guaranteed to make 30+ starts next year and the remaining years of whatever contract he receives.
With a pivotal offseason ahead, the Mets would be wise to approach deGrom with both the understanding of his greatness and his very real risk.