After breaking the record by becoming the highest-paid arbitration player in MLB history, New York Mets Ace, Jacob deGrom looks to start the 2019 season on a high following his dominant 2018 campaign. However, as the reigning National League Cy Young award winner enters his penultimate year of arbitration eligibility, his future in Flushing remains unclear.
While deGrom enters this season as a 31-year old hurler, the Mets understand that although they have another full year of team control over his contract, it would conceivably be in their best interest to reach an agreement for a contract extension this season, before they are forced to increase his salary again next year in arbitration. Yet as each day passes, their window of opportunity grows shorter, since deGrom’s team of representatives (led by his agent, Jeff Berry), set an Opening Day deadline for the front office to negotiate a contract extension. Failure to reach an agreement prior to this target date means that the Mets will have to wait until next winter during his last arbitration year before free agency.
Interestingly, I think these talks will be an early indication as to how negotiations will go with Zack Wheeler (twenty-eight) next offseason when he hits free agency and Noah Syndergaard (twenty-six), who will remain arbitration eligible until after the 2021 season unless the Mets decide to offer him a contract before then. While both players have stated their interest in signing extensions to stay in Queens, it begs the question that if the Mets are so hard pressed to pay the best pitcher in baseball, how will they fare when negotiating with these lesser-ranked players?
In the meantime, I do not think deGrom (nor any Mets fan for that matter) needs to hear about the opinions or jabs from other players (like RHP Luis Severino) around the league, as I’m sure they would be playing hardball too if they were in deGrom’s shoes. Besides, he needs no help handling his business, as he recently responded to his critics, stating, “Everybody is entitled to their own opinions … I didn’t think it was a big deal,” when his representatives threatened to set an inning’s limit should the Mets fail to reach a decision to extend his contract before Opening Day.
If I were in GM Van Wagenen’s shoes and taking into to consideration deGrom’s current age and talent level, I would offer him a four-year, $124 million contract extension with a fifth-year team option. This would guarantee deGrom $30.5 million annually, placing him above RHP Jake Arrieta and LHP David Price’s base salary whilst also making him the third-highest paid starting pitcher in MLB, behind only Clayton Kershaw ($33 million) and Zack Greinke ($31 million).
I doubt however, that a deal will be reached before the season begins and before the deadline enacted by deGrom’s team of agents (of which, Brodie Van Wagenen used to be one). Due to the frugal tendencies of the Wilpon’s, I wonder if this deadline was a way of playing hardball with the Mets ownership. Regardless, if Van Wagenen is true to his word, then his acceptance of the General Manager’s job signified a new era of Mets baseball and a new locker room culture that would be dedicated to creating a winning mentality.
That’s what was promised, and Mets fans should be watching these contract negotiations with serious interest, and a bit of skepticism, as Van Wagenen tries to retain a star player in his determination to deliver a World Championship roster to Mets fans. This is really the first juncture for them to put their money where their mouth is and prove their commitment to winning. Still, based on his recent actions pertaining to deGrom, I think he is devoted to doing just that. “We know how important he is to the organization. And I think it will be my job to make sure there’s no strained relationship no matter what takes place as we continue to move forward.”
As Opening Day approaches, time will tell whether the Mets are serious about paying the best pitcher in baseball and extending his contract or sitting tight and waiting until next winter.