Thursday Thought: Jacob deGrom's value in free agency is over $50M per season

New York Mets v Washington Nationals - Game One
New York Mets v Washington Nationals - Game One / G Fiume/GettyImages

The New York Mets made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason when they signed Max Scherzer to a three-year, $130 million contract on Monday, November 29th. This move pairs him with Jacob deGrom, giving the Mets one of the most dominant 1-2 punches in baseball history.

Jimmy O’Brien, Jake Storiale, and Trevor Plouffe were discussing the move on Talkin’ Baseball when Plouffe had an epiphany: if Scherzer is worth $43 million per year, Jacob deGrom has the leverage to get $50 million per year.

“I’m so excited for Jacob deGrom,” Plouffe said during the first live episode on Monday, November 29th. “I just came to the realization that he has all the leverage in the world.”

Plouffe was referring to deGrom’s opt out after the 2022 season. If deGrom opts in, he can earn $30.5 million in 2023 and he has a club option for $32.5 million in 2024 as well.

Obviously, if deGrom stays healthy in 2022 and puts up another deGrom-like season, he’s going to opt out. And he’s going to get PAID.

“I promise you he has all of the leverage. He is going to negotiate upwards of $50 million a year for himself from Uncle Stevie, and I just can’t wait,” Plouffe said in Talkin’ Baseball’s second live episode of the day. “$50 million. Book it.”

That’s an accurate figure of what deGrom will command per year in free agency. Yes, it’s insane, but so is he.

Most people think about a pitcher’s value in terms of WAR, ERA, strikeouts, or innings pitched. But we would be remiss to not look at the dollar value of some of deGrom’s seasons. Fangraphs has a tool that converts WAR to dollar value.

In his 2018 season, he posted 9 WAR, a 1.70 ERA, and struck out 269 batters in 217 innings on his way to winning his first Cy Young award. Fangraphs estimates that he was worth $72.3 million in 2019.

In 2021, he tallied 4.9 WAR, a 1.08 ERA, and struck out 146 batters in 92 innings pitched. Even though he only pitched less than half of his normal workload, he was still worth $39 million. Had he pitched his usually 200+innings and kept the same metrics, he would have been worth more than $85 million.

For what it’s worth, Steamer projects deGrom to pitch 152 innings, strike out 228 batters, and post an ERA of 2.32 next season, good for an fWAR of 6.1. His closest season to a 6.1 WAR was his 2019 when he posted a 6.9, won his second Cy Young, and was worth $55.5 million.

“Do you want me to be there with Max Scherzer, who you’re paying $43 million?” Plouffe mused as if he was in deGrom’s shoes. “Ok, guess what Uncle Steve, now it’s my turn. Pay me.” 

To summarize, Plouffe’s estimations are correct. If deGrom deGrominates in 2022 and opts out of the remaining two years of his contract, he will get more than $50 million per season. 

Here’s the crazy part: based on deGrom’s prior performances and Fangraphs’ dollar-value tool, the Mets might save money by signing him to a deal like that, should he continue to dominate the way he can and stay healthy. 

deGrom will be 34 next winter. If he opts out, look for a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $210 million.

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