‘Optimistic’ isn’t a word that is thrown willy-nilly around the New York Mets organization often. Usually, when it is, it pertains to the innumerable health issues that have befallen the franchise which quickly ends in disaster.
Mets ace and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, however, provided some insight about his current contract situation and if there is an extension on the horizon.
“I would like to be seen as a future part of this organization,” deGrom said earlier this week. “We have till the end of spring, so yeah, I’m still optimistic.”
Proceed with caution.
The 30-year-old right-hander gave the Mets an Opening-Day deadline to negotiate a contract extension and secure him in Queens for the foreseeable future. DeGrom is under team control for the next two seasons, though he’ll have to go through a fourth-round of arbitration following the 2019 season.
New York and its star avoided a hearing this year when settling on a $17 million deal, a bargain considering there are 21 pitchers in Major League Baseball who are making more money than deGrom this year.
While deGrom is optimistic, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen tampered those expectations.
“I’m not going to put a label on it,” he said. “We’re continuing to have discussions. There has been open dialogue, and I think that’s important.”
His sudden unwillingness to give deGrom a big-time extension is as hypocritical as it gets. The former agent represented deGrom through the 2018 season where he famously gave the Mets an ultimatum of committing to his client immediately or trade him away.
There’s no denying that Van Wagenen is in a difficult spot. It’s imperative that the Mets secure their ace through the remaining productive seasons of his career.
However, negotiations couldn’t come at a worse time for the often-cheap organization seeing as deGrom is coming off one of the best pitching seasons in baseball history. Since 1908, there had only been two pitchers that possessed a sub-2.00 ERA, over 250 strikeouts and fewer than 50 walks. The legendary Christy Mathewson did so for the New York Giants 111 years ago before Pedro Martinez with the Boston Red Sox in 2000.
DeGrom became pitcher No. 3 in that category as he finished with a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and just 46 walks.
That obviously calls for a handsome payday even though it’s safe to assume that deGrom won’t be able to repeat that kind of performance ever again.
If the Mets don’t flash the cash on deGrom and proceed to struggle in 2019 while showing little motivation to further improve the roster, it might be too late to keep the ace. Unrestricted free agency following the 2020 season could look like the most appealing option which could force the Mets to try and trade him.