Well, at least he was supposed to in 2023. The former NL Cy Young winner signed a five-year, $185 million deal with the now World Series champion Rangers. And known WFAN loudmouth Sal Licata will eat his words again.
deGrom got off to a great start, going 2-0 with a 2.67 ERA in six starts…and then had Tommy John surgery in June. But it’s fine, really! His goal is to be back by August, approximately 14 months after the operation.
Except the Rangers seem to have done just fine without him. The AL’s best offense carried the team. The pitching, though ranking 18th with a 4.28 ERA in the regular season, posted a slightly better 3.83 mark in the playoffs.
Did Texas overachieve? Of course they did, and the Arizona Diamondbacks too. Both teams were Wild Cards and there hasn’t been an all-Wild Card World Series since 2014. Everything went perfectly right at the perfectly right time for both of them, and the Rangers’ hot streak just lasted longer.
Better yet, the Rangers are now in a pretty strong position to run it back. The key names in the lineup, like playoff power machine Adolis Garcia, are all under contract for 2024. So are the important pitchers, and the Rangers could also re-sign Jordan Montgomery in free agency.
So where does that leave Jacob deGrom? 2023 marked the fourth year in a row that the veteran righty has failed to pitch 100 innings. He hasn’t made 20 starts in a season since 2019 and the Rangers have some exciting young pitching. Dane Dunning showed tremendous improvement on the mound this year, and Texas also has Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker down on the farm.
It’s hard to imagine but…could Jacob deGrom be the most expensive expendable pitcher in baseball?
Let’s look at this by the numbers. deGrom made his six starts this season before surgery and still earned $30 million in salary, per Spotrac. He’ll earn $40 million in 2024 while working towards his optimistic August return. And even then, he’s still looking at just 7-10 starts on the season, if that.
The rest of the contract is pretty pricey too. deGrom will earn $115 million from 2025-27, the deal’s final three years. The Rangers also own a $20 million club option for 2028.
Now, deGrom has proven time and time again that he is indeed one of baseball’s best pitchers…when healthy. This is where a vital piece of information comes into play.
The issue everyone seems to be glossing over, if not outright ignoring, is that Jacob deGrom is already 35 years old. He’ll turn 36 during his recovery, meaning he’ll be 37 the next time he has a chance to pitch a full season!
Meanwhile, the Rangers just won the World Series on the backs of two pitchers—Montgomery and his fellow former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi—who have three Tommy John surgeries between them. And they’ve somehow done a better job of staying healthy than deGrom ever has.
None of this is to say the Rangers signing deGrom was a mistake. Again, he’s elite when healthy and Texas needed strong pitching to complement their powerful lineup. There’s still a very minute possibility that he defies age and comes back in top form.
But given how much the Rangers just accomplished without him, and on such a big scale? Don’t be shocked if deGrom’s age, injuries, and price tag make him something of an afterthought in Arlington