MLB free agency is here, and there’s a real chance Jacob deGrom won’t be pitching for the Mets in 2023. New York will do what it can to retain the right-handed pitcher, but if another team comes in and blows the ace away with an offer, who knows what’ll happen.
At this stage, the two teams most linked to the deGrom that isn’t the Mets include the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves. Of those two, it certainly seems like the Rangers are the more motivated.
The Braves would surely be a tantalizing thought for deGrom because they’re a good team with a terrific young core. Atlanta also has five capable pitchers slated to man its rotation to start 2023. This includes Kyle Wright, Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Spencer Strider, and Mike Soroka.
Soroka is the biggest Wild Card because injuries have limited him to just 13.2 big-league innings since 2020. However, I think that if the Braves were serious about chasing after deGrom, they wouldn’t have signed Morton to a $20 million contract extension already.
As for the Rangers, though, they need plenty of help. General manager Chris Young’s moves to start this winter are already making space (actual and financial) for one of the open market’s elite hurlers.
Texas’ rotation currently looks like this (according to Roster Resource):
- Jon Gray
- Jake Odorizzi
- Dane Dunning
- Glenn Otto
- Cole Ragans
Odorizzi is a recent addition, too. The Rangers traded Kolby Allard in exchange for the veteran innings eater and cash from Atlanta earlier this week. Texas also extended a qualifying offer to Martin Perez. There’s a chance he takes the offer, and both sides have been discussing a multi-year deal after he posted 3.8 fWAR and a 2.89 ERA in 196.1 innings.
At the very least, the Rangers probably like Gray, Odorizzi, and Perez to occupy the second, third, and fourth spots in the rotation (in some order). If they can’t reel in two start pitchers to insert into the rotation, maybe a soon-to-be 28-year-old Dunning takes up that fifth spot.
But at the top? One would imagine they’re keeping it open for either deGrom or Carlos Rodon. And who knows, maybe both. They could be willing and able to do that because it’s something they did last winter.
The Rangers spent half a billion dollars in free agency for Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Gray. Without adding in arbitration and pre-arbitration salaries, Texas has just $89 million committed to its 2023 payroll. They could easily afford the record payday deGrom is reportedly seeking. And if they really want to, maybe things will get really nuts and the Rangers will throw upwards of $65-70 million per year on two top-tier arms.
Competing in the American League West with the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners will be tough for the foreseeable future. But as the Philadelphia Phillies just displayed, all a team needs is a ticket to the postseason dance and anything can happen.
The Rangers are going for it, especially after bringing manager Bruce Bochy out of retirement to lead this team. They’ll attempt to stack the deck. We can already see how Young’s current rotation decisions can pave the way to get a deal done with deGrom.