No one disputes Jacob deGrom‘s deGrominance on the mound. But signing him to an extension this winter would be a mistake for the New York Mets.
Jacob deGrom is a heck of a pitcher, arguably one of the best not only in the National League, but all of baseball. He’s also 29 years old and under team control for three more seasons.
Which makes a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, who says the Mets “are expected to explore the possibility of a multi-year deal this winter for [their] ace” all the more puzzling.
And it begs the question: Why?
Yes, deGrom has been one of the few bright spots in a disastrous 2017 season for the Amazin’s. He’s set new career-highs in wins (15), innings pitched (201.1) and strikeouts (239). His 3.53 ERA and 1.19 WHIP are more than respectable.
He also doesn’t have the normal amount of wear-and-tear that a 29-year old pitcher has on their arm, tossing just 680.2 major league innings over the past four seasons. These are all reasons why the Mets should sign him to an extension, I know.
But this is an organization that doesn’t have a stellar track record when it comes to keeping its players healthy. No one can predict injuries, of course, but why should the Mets assume that risk with deGrom at a higher price than they have to?
There’s no doubt that deGrom is going to get a sizable raise from his 2017 salary of $4.05 million this winter, his second arbitration-eligible offseason. But he’s not going to get a bank-breaking raise that would prohibit the team making additional improvements elsewhere on the roster. Especially with a ton of salary about to come off of the payroll.
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Let’s assume for argument’s sake that deGrom’s salary doubles this winter to $8.1 million. Let’s say he has another terrific season in 2018 and it doubles again—to $16.2 million. Those are still going to be below-market salaries for a pitcher of his caliber.
Don’t think that’s the case? Take a look at some of the starting pitchers who made more than that $16.2 million figure in 2017:
- Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds: $19 million
- Jeremy Hellickson, Philadelphia/Baltimore: $17.2 million
- Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: $26.86 million
- Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles Dodgers: $17.6 million
- CC Sabathia, New York Yankees: $25 million
- James Shields, Chicago White Sox: $21 million
- Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers: $18 million
Would you take any of those pitchers in Game 7 of the World Series over deGrom? Or on a random Saturday in mid-July? No one would. In fact, I’d wager most of those pitchers would admit that they’d rather have deGrom on the mound in a must-win game.
But that’s still no reason for the Mets to give up the control they have over deGrom through 2020. It’s still no reason for the Mets to extend a pitcher past his age-32 season.
Does the team run the risk of not being able to keep him around in three years by letting him play out his current deal? Absolutely. Will he become more expensive to extend if he continues to have the success he’s had? You betcha.
But what if he doesn’t? This is a team that can’t afford to be locked into another burdensome, long-term deal for a veteran player on the downside of his career.
There’s simply no reason for the Mets to even start thinking about extending deGrom. Not when there are so many holes, from the dugout to the field, that must be addressed this winter.