Will Jacob deGrom return to the Mets in 2023? According to a recent report from Mike Puma of the New York Post, the front office might be gaining confidence in that possibility.
Here’s the biggest part regarding deGrom’s reported desires:
A free agent after opting out from his contract, deGrom is seeking a new deal that would position him as MLB’s highest-paid pitcher, ahead of the Mets’ Max Scherzer. The Mets have received enough indications from deGrom’s camp, according to a source, that they believe the two-time Cy Young award winner wants to stay, provided there isn’t a significant discrepancy in offers.
DeGrom is said to also place a high priority on winning. This makes sense for someone who is 34 years old. The ace also believes the Mets are in a position to legitimately contend for a World Series on a regular basis (thank you, Steve Cohen).
The Rangers appear to be the biggest threat to signing the right-hander away from the Mets. However, Puma also notes the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, and Yankees as other possibilities. It’s great to see the above quote, but there are two nuggets within this report that are important as the Mets continue pursuing their homegrown ace.
Record-setting AAV might not be a problem
The Cohen-led Mets don’t have a problem setting financial records. Francisco Lindor’s $341 million deal is one of the biggest in MLB history. Meanwhile, Max Scherzer’s three-year, $130 million deal set a record with an average annual value (AAV) of $43.3 million.
That’s the number deGrom’s camp is reportedly trying to beat. Even with missing time the last two seasons with injury, deGrom has still been the most effective pitcher in baseball since 2018, based on fWAR. So, they have a point.
DeGrom was supposed to make just over $30 million in 2023 had he not opted out. So, how high are the Mets comfortable going in negotiations? Puma suggested New York could be willing to surpass that $43.3 million number to get a deal done, but it came with a condition.
Length of contract is a sticking point
As with any free-agent professional athlete, deGrom appears to be looking for the highest guarantee possible in both salary and years. This is where the Mets are reportedly drawing a line in the sand.
Puma notes New York could be willing to set another AAV record with deGrom on a short-term contract. It sounds like a four- or five-year deal is a definite no-go. Additionally, a three-year deal would only be possible with a third-year option that vests after hitting certain incentives.
This makes perfect sense for the Mets. Having Scherzer and deGrom at the top of their rotation would be great for a squad in win-now mode like New York. The organization clearly views paying top dollar over a short period as less restrictive. This is the best way to thread the needle of keeping an elite player without handcuffing future payrolls.
We know the Mets and deGrom have been open with one another about what they’re looking for and willing to do. DeGrom has earned every right to explore opportunities and see if a team offers what he wants. If they do, he’ll have an important decision to make.
However, this at least gives us a sense of where the Mets’ limits are in their negotiations. And if what Puma said is accurate, it’s totally reasonable.