When it comes down to it, I really don’t think that Jacob deGrom is going to go into full Derek Bell mode, start pulling himself out of games in the fifth inning, and make the entire 2019 season a business decision. My view from the outside is that deGrom is too much of a competitor to keep the juices flowing when it counts, especially if the team that Brodie has put together turns out to be a true contender for the division. I’m sure that the team will also want to be judicious with deGrom’s innings early in the season anyway. So Jacob’s thoughts about limiting his innings will turn out to be, at the very least, one of those one-off spring training quotes that catches fire because there’s nothing else to talk about. At the very worst, they will shine a light at deGrom’s frustration which has manifested itself as a negotiating ploy.
Do I get the frustration? Absolutely.
Look, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been with an organization for a year, eight years, or twenty-two and a half years … baseball or otherwise. When you have done everything asked of you, gone above and beyond by pitching big in important games and having one of the greatest seasons a pitcher has had in recent memory despite a historic lack of support, you want to know that the higher-ups have your back. It’s frustrating when you slowly come to the realization that they don’t … that this is a business and nothing else.
The problem here is that the Mets, at this very moment in time, are right. deGrom will hit free agency for his age 33 season because he came up so late in his baseball life. he wasn’t even the big prospect that joined the Mets that year … it was Rafael Montero. If deGrom was Montero’s age, there would be no excuse for the Mets to let deGrom play out his rookie contract (big arbitration payday and all) and get to free agency. But the way the Mets probably see it now, they can get all of Jacob deGrom’s prime on his rookie contract, and whatever they have to swallow in arbitration will be better than negotiating a multi-million dollar deal to keep him for two more seasons, which will be age 33 and 34. It just doesn’t make sense for the team. There’s no way the Mets can logically negotiate a new deal coming off a season for the ages, just to add to more seasons of mid-30’s decline.
The problem isn’t that the Mets won’t extend deGrom now. The problem is that the Mets haven’t done it before. The Mets and deGrom have had plenty of time to extend deGrom, buy two more seasons, and make it a team friendly deal. I know that I’ve been advocating for a deGrom extension for a long time. So let’s say that deGrom gets his extension after 2015, after winning Rookie of the Year in 2014 and winning two games against the Dodgers in the NLDS, including Game 5. Does a seven year deal at $105 million seem reasonable? Maybe it wouldn’t have back then. Maybe it would have been on the aggressive side. But after the 2018 season and an arbitration hike, perhaps another one for 2020, and then two more years at $15 million per would seem like a bargain at that point. Two more years that even come close to 2018 and we’re talking $20-$25 million per on the open market, even in a depressed market such as the one we’re seeing now. So you pay a little more in the beginning, and the back end is a bargain. At the very least, deGrom loses his moral high ground to talk about innings limits while under a contract that he willingly signed.
But the Mets didn’t play it that way. They never do. While it seems smart now, there’s no accounting for the value of relationships, whether it be with Jacob or future free agents who saw that the Mets took care of their guy and would be a little more amenable to taking care of them too. But nobody thinks that way anymore, especially now in this analytics driven free agency. Nobody plays the long game anymore.
And Brodie is in a tough spot here. You wanted to see if there would be some sort of gymnastics that he would have to do when a former client is concerned? Well here it is. He advocated for deGrom last season with the “pay him or trade him” rant, and he has said that he will be involved with these negotiations. So does he play hardball because he’s on the other side now and risk being seen by the deGrom camp as a phony? Or does he play it down the middle and not pretend that all the good things he said about Jacob in the past never happened? Is playing a hard line worth damaging a relationship which could in turn damage the team on the field in ways we don’t even know about yet?
And by the way, if the whole “innings limit” conversation was sparked by deGrom’s new agents at CAA, where do you think they learned it from?
Look, deGrom isn’t being selfish, cold, nor is he making a business decision. At least not yet. This is the negotiating tactic of someone who is pissed at the wavering of the front office on a new contract. And rightfully so. There’s emotion involved. (I know it when I hear it.) Remember when deGrom wouldn’t sign his 2016 contract under protest?
“We respect the Mets’ right to determine a pre-arbitration player’s salary and their effort to be consistent with their players,” said agent Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball. “But given Jacob’s standing as one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball and his 2015 performance, his worth cannot be properly valued by a formula. Like the Mets, he is simply exercising his rights under the [collective bargaining agreement]. This will not affect Jacob’s relationship with the Mets. Both parties are focused on preparing for the season and getting the Mets back to the World Series.”
“His worth cannot be properly valued by a formula.” Interesting, considering that’s all anybody seems to be doing right now. Of course this all ties in to the awful free agent market and the cold way in which players are valued now because of advanced analytics combined with the fear of signing the next Jason Bay.
Just as many of the game’s best players are pissed off about the state of affairs, deGrom is probably pissed off too at how it all affects his own situation, and rightly so. Forget the money aspect of it and focus on the perceived lack of appreciation. The same people that expect deGrom and others to put their feelings aside for the good of the team and not coast through are the same people that complain when they don’t get that promotion or that plum assignment or the nice office at their job. You think regular people at regular jobs don’t coast?
This is as much about appreciation as it is about money, and that’s why Jacob deGrom is pissed. I don’t blame him one bit. That his feeling of under appreciation has come out as shades of Operation Shutdown should tell you that the club has let this go too far, even if deGrom does wind up going all out in 2019, which I think he will. Due to the Mets having deGrom over a barrel and using every bit of that leverage, there may not be any turning back at this point. And that’s a damn shame.