Not even the All-Star break will allow the New York Mets a moment of respite. After completing a disastrous first half Sunday, the team was quickly hit with a loaded message from the camp of pitcher Jacob deGrom that will put the ace’s future in New York into sharper focus during the second half.
Speaking to the media during Monday’s All-Star availability, deGrom’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, strongly suggested that the Mets front office consider two options between now and season’s end: Pay my client, or trade your ace.
On the surface, such a message could easily be interpreted as a demand, with the potential to become a full-blown ultimatum. Van Wagenen proclaimed neither to be true. At least not yet. Instead, he framed it as a “logical” step in a lost season.
Here’s more the New York Post’s Joel Sherman:
Van Wagenen called it “logical” that the Mets pick an avenue either to build around deGrom by extending the righty, who can be a free agent after the 2020 season, or else capitalize on deGrom pitching at his peak.
“Now is not the next two weeks,” Van Wagenen said about having deGrom moved before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. “Now is in the current marketplace. Now is at this trade deadline or in this calendar year. It is not best for the team or the fans or for Jacob to have him in limbo going into next season.”
For what it’s worth, Van Wagenen says that deGrom is open to remaining with the Mets long term. Sherman says the Mets surely got the message from deGrom’s camp, but aren’t likely to react at any point in the near future.
Here’s a closer look at where both sides stand and why this has become an issue.
What is Jacob deGrom’s contract status?
He’s signed through the 2018 season and has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining. That means that barring an extension or trade, he’ll remain under Mets control through the 2020 season, at which point he would enter free agency for the first time at age 32.
That’s not exactly a prime position for a pitcher to be in, which is why deGrom’s camp is pushing for a long-term decision from the Mets before the 2019 season. If the Mets aren’t willing to commit, a trade could give deGrom a chance to land an extension with another team or further build his value pitching for a contender. The obvious added bonus being a chance for deGrom to reach the postseason again.
What is the Mets stance on trading Jacob deGrom?
According to Sherman’s report in the New York Post, the Mets will listen to trade offers for deGrom, just as they’ll listen to trade offers for their other starting pitchers, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler. However, his sources believe the Mets asking price for deGrom is high enough right now that interested teams might consider him unavailable.
That’s not a surprise. With deGrom under team control for two more seasons, there’s no urgency for the Mets to make that decision. On the flip side, if the Mets keep deGrom they’ll have to pay him eventually. He’s making $7.4 million in 2018, but should command a nice raise in arbitration the next two winters.
How much value does deGrom currently have?
A ton, which is another reason the Mets asking price is so high. He has been MLB’s best pitcher over the first half of the season, and there’s really no debating that.
With eight scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Phillies last Wednesday, deGrom lowered his MLB-best ERA to 1.67 over 19 starts. Somehow, the Mets have managed to completely waste deGrom’s brilliance. He’s been saddled with four losses and 10 no decisions in his 19 starts. That’s despite having allowed three runs or less in each of his last 16 starts.
DeGrom is understandably frustrated, but it hasn’t impacted his performance. As Alex Rodriguez said Monday, deGrom is the type of player who could immediately shift the balance of power like Justin Verlander did for the Houston Astros last season. All things considered, it might be worth it for a team to meet the Mets demands.
Which teams could trade for Jacob deGrom?
The New York Yankees have been connected to nearly every big name that could be available in a trade. Considering their need for a starting pitcher, deGrom should be atop their list. Of course, most people doubt the Mets would trade their best pitcher or any other notable star to New York’s other team without getting an enormous return.
A pair of Mets division rivals could have interest too. Chances are though that the same rules would apply to the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. Then there’s the Los Angeles Dodgers, who made a big splash right at the deadline last season when they acquired Yu Darvish, and everyone’s favorite darkhorse, the Milwaukee Brewers.
For now, it’s safe to assume the Mets will hold tight with deGrom and at least see how this winter’s loaded free agent market plays out. By next spring though, it could become a storyline to watch.
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