It’s been a little touch-and-go since Jacob deGrom opted out of his Mets contract after the World Series. However, signs are pointing to the Amazins potentially having an advantage in retaining their homegrown ace.
We’ve seen reports that New York’s front office believes deGrom would prefer a return to the Mets if his contract offers are similar. The Mets’ biggest competitor in this situation — the Texas Rangers — may also be focusing on other pitching upgrades.
The offseason is still young, but it seems like the right-hander’s market may not be as robust as his representation thought it’d be. All it takes is one team to change how everything looks, though. But if recent events are favoring the Mets, why has there been no reported momentum toward an agreement?
DeGrom and his camp could still be waiting for things to develop. Or, they could be chatting with unreported teams. SNY’s Andy Martino brought up the possibility of a mystery team on Monday’s episode of Baseball Night in New York:
What's the comfort level on giving Jacob deGrom a 3-year deal?
— SNY (@SNYtv) November 29, 2022
None of this is shocking news. As Martino said, there’s always a mystery team involved for attractive free agents. With that being said, let’s try and pinpoint a small subset of teams that could be in the mix for deGrom.
DeGrom’s current market (that we know of)
The Mets are obviously prioritizing their homegrown ace. They’ve been accompanied by the Rangers (duh), Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, and Atlanta Braves.
We just mentioned Texas’ focus might be shifting. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has reported it’s “unlikely” for the Braves to seriously get involved in pursuing deGrom. The Yankees have requested medicals for the two-time Cy Young winner, but their focus is on Aaron Judge right now. So, until we see otherwise, it’s probably nothing more than doing some due diligence.
Regarding the Dodgers and Cubs, we haven’t heard a ton about their motive and how focused they could be on acquiring deGrom.
Who has the potential to be a mystery team?
After taking a quick peek at the current 2023 payrolls over at Spotrac, seven squads jump out as potential mystery teams. They include (in no particular order): San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, and Minnesota Twins.
Padres: After what they did at the trade deadline, we can’t totally count out A.J. Preller and Co. for any player until they’re acquired by someone else.
Blue Jays: Toronto has been mostly tied to Brandon Nimmo after trading Teoscar Hernandez, but we know they’re willing to spend. The Jays just made a big splash in the pitching market last year by extending Jose Berrios and signing Kevin Gausman. But if they don’t land Nimmo (or don’t feel confident they can), maybe they use that money for the rotation.
Astros: The World Champs just solidified their offense by signing Jose Abreu. However, there is a Justin Verlander-sized hole in their rotation. The reigning AL Cy Young winner seems intrigued by other opportunities. Maybe Houston fills the void with another Cy Young winner.
Cardinals: St. Louis looks to have a full rotation ahead of 2023 already. However, there’s no team in baseball who wouldn’t want to make room for someone of deGrom’s caliber. In polling ESPN MLB insiders/reporters, Alden Gonzalez was the only one to pick the Cardinals as a potential landing spot for deGrom. Whether that’s just a hunch or based on something he heard, I can’t get it out of my mind.
Giants: We know San Francisco wants to sign Judge badly. Even if that happens, they’d still need to make multiple upgrades on offense. Farhan Zaidi has also made it known there is no player they can’t afford via free agency this year. But if they swing and miss on offensive upgrades, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them pivot to the top of the pitching market.
Mariners: Jerry DiPoto prefers to wheel and deal in the trade market, but after making the postseason for the first time since 2001, Seattle wants to keep that momentum coming. They’ve been among the many teams to express an interest in Nimmo, so the cash is there to spend if they want to.
Twins: As we sit here on November 29th, Minnesota has just under $50 million committed to its 2023 roster right now. They’re looking to fill their hole at shortstop with one of the top free-agent options. You’d think the organization likely prefers to bring back Carlos Correa. It’s not like the Twins couldn’t stand to bolster their rotation in the perennially wide-open American League Central, though.
Most likely squads to be a Jacob deGrom mystery team
Outside of the Dodgers and Cubs, who could very easily be more involved than being reported, the Cardinals and Astros feel like the most likely squads to be this “mystery team” that Martino mentioned.
Of all the squads listed above, Houston and St. Louis are the ones that might check most of deGrom’s boxes. They have the ability to afford the annual average salary he wants, they’re committed to winning, and they’re located closer to his home in Florida.
Then again, it could be none of these teams. After all, the Rays surprised people by pursuing Freddie Freeman last winter and have an interest in Nimmo this year.
Without the threat of a lockout, free agency has moved much slower this month than it did last year. Let’s just hope things start heating up as we inch closer to the Winter Meetings next week.