We've collected some of our end-of-year content as we approach 2020. A version of this story originally published on Dec. 11, 2019.
Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
In the wake of baseball's winter pitching splurge, a popular social media hot take around the Mets goes something like this: Jacob deGrom is a bargain, even at $27.5 million per year!
Yes, the Mets are getting their money's worth out of the five-year, $137.5 million extension they gave their ace before last season, especially since he won a second consecutive National League Cy Young Award in 2019.
It's hard to say someone isn't a good value when he might be the best pitcher in baseball and he's getting paid in the same neighborhood as the other "best pitcher" candidates, such as Max Scherzer, who is playing on a seven-year, $210 million deal.
But it's probably unfair to deGrom to suggest that his deal is, well, such a deal -- even if Gerrit Cole (a pitcher-record $324 million), Stephen Strasburg ($245 million) and Zack Wheeler ($118 million) all got paid this off-season.
That's because, as former Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd put it, "It's hard to paint every player and every decision with the same brush. There are different circumstances."
"Baseball, like life, is about timing," added O'Dowd, who is an analyst for the MLB Network. "This year was a perfect storm -- two very large markets with payroll flexibility, that had a strong desire for Cole. And he's great.
"If Jacob had played it out (to free agency), the stars might not have lined up in the same way."
DeGrom was still under team control when he signed his extension, so the Angels and Dodgers weren't driving up the price, which is what the Yankees faced in getting Cole. And deGrom would not have been a free agent until 2020, when he'd be entering his age-33 season.
Cole, who has a much lighter injury history than deGrom, is 29. So is Wheeler. Strasburg is 31.
And, O'Dowd said, deGrom had had Tommy John surgery earlier in his career.
"He's a little older, because he was originally a position player," O'Dowd added. "From a timing standpoint, it was his first significant bite of the (financial) apple. I think when the Mets did that extension, they thought they were making a significant investment, not knowing the market would move the way it has this winter.
"I don't want to downplay how good a decision it was for the player, too. I understand the gaps in the deals (with this winter's pacts), but he has life-changing money for generations to come in his family. He was one arm injury away from maybe not being able to achieve that and he'd already been injured."
When deGrom signed, the free agent market was different, too. This year's Winter Meetings were marked by action, unlike the uncertainty and torpor of last year. Dallas Keuchel, one of the top pitchers available last winter, was still looking for work when deGrom signed in March.
Should deGrom have opted for free agency? Jim Duquette, the former Mets and Orioles GM who is an analyst for SNY, wonders if deGrom would've made more money. But nothing is certain.
Here's something to think about, as noted by Adam Fisher, a former member of the Mets front office and a current analyst for SNY: At one point, Matt Harvey was ticketed for mega-riches.
"All those Mets starters, that's evidence how simple twists in fate can lead to vast differences in what the potential outcomes can be," Fisher said. And, Fisher added, "It's not like there wasn't considerable risk for the Mets in this -- $137.5 million is an incredible amount of money for a pitcher, even if it's being dwarfed by contracts now."
The average annual value of deGrom's contract is ninth all-time among pitchers. Here's the current top five: Cole ($36 million), Strasburg ($35 million), Zack Greinke ($34.4 million), Justin Verlander ($33 million) and David Price ($31 million).
Over the past two years, deGrom has a 2.05 ERA, a 16.9 bWAR and a 189 ERA-plus and has arguably been better than anyone. Only Hyun-Jin Ryu is comparable in ERA (2.21) and ERA-plus (184). Scherzer (14.5), Verlander (14.0) and Cole (12.1) are the only ones close in bWAR.
"It probably works really well for the Mets now, with the ability of hindsight," Duquette said. "You give Jacob a lot of credit for basically taking what he thought was a good deal and maybe accepting less overall to stay with the only team he's been with. He's doing fine."
Asked at the Winter Meetings if he was thankful he got the deGrom deal done when he did, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen told reporters: "I think we were thankful to have deGrom at the front of our rotation for years to come."
In any pact, he added, "You hope to see a structure that both sides feel good about and I think that was what was great about the deGrom deal."