John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
You could see this coming from the day Brodie Van Wagenen crossed over from agent to GM, and now he's in a staredown with Jacob deGrom that is not only pivotal for the organization, but perhaps his own credibility with his players.
Van Wagenen, after all, wants to be a good-guy boss, having spent years as an agent cultivating relationships with players. Two of his big moves this offseason were acquiring former clients, Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie, and he made both at least partly out of a strong belief in what he came to know about them as people as well as players.
Furthermore, BVW has spent the offseason declaring his faith in the 2019 Mets, talking them up as favorites with a bravado that has been well received by the players.
Yet here he is now, seemingly stonewalling deGrom, the same guy for whom he was making threats last July about demanding a trade if the Mets wouldn't sign him to a long-term contract extension.
It doesn't get much more awkward than this, and for a lot of reasons, the Mets should make sure Van Wagenen can get a deal done.
Never mind that the Cy Young Award winner has said there are no hard feelings about the lack of talks with the team on the subject. The fact that he's now allowed his new agent to go public in putting an Opening-Day deadline on contract talks speaks to his growing frustration.
And never mind that it's almost certainly not Van Wagenen's call as to the absence of contract discussions at the moment. You know the GM wants to do a deal after all the talks he had with deGrom on this very subject as his agent, but obviously ownership isn't willing to make that type of commitment at the moment.
At this point, that's irrelevant to deGrom. His former bro, Brodie, is the point man on the other side now, the face of the organization saying no to him right now.
It comes with the territory for GMs, and certainly there is an argument to be made for not extending deGrom. At age 30, he is still two years away from free agency, and by waiting until next winter, the Mets could reduce the risk of injury that comes with giving him a long-term deal.
However, at that point, the price for signing deGrom almost certainly would go up, as he'd be one season away from free agency and less likely to sign at any sort of discounted rate as a trade-off for long-term security.
Are the Mets ready for that reality? If so, then it's fine to wait, but it's hard to have a lot of confidence in them paying absolute top-dollar when their payroll is always an issue.
Meanwhile, I do think deGrom should be willing to give the Mets a discount to get a deal done, as it would eliminate his own risk of injury before reaching free agency.
Also, it's hard to ignore the fact that analytics, a beefed-up element of the Mets' front office under Van Wagenen, are telling teams to proceed ultra-cautiously with players in their 30s, and deGrom will be 32 when he reaches free agency. On the other hand, deGrom's athleticism and loose-limbed delivery offers reason to believe that he can pitch at a reasonably high level at least into his mid-30s.
So what's fair for both sides? I think something like a five-year deal for $125 million, beginning in 2019, saves the Mets from potentially paying deGrom the $30-plus million a year the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are making, while still giving the reigning Cy Young Award winner the megadeal he's worth.
Otherwise, well, suffice it to say the closer deGrom gets to free agency, the greater the chances of the Mets losing him. That could be a PR nightmare for an organization whose fan base already doesn't trust it to do the right thing.
Worse, there is the possibility this could lead to more tangible issues regarding deGrom's usage this season. SNY's Andy Martino has reported that deGrom's camp has indicated the possibility of putting limits on deGrom's innings as a way of helping ensure his long-term health.
I really don't see deGrom going down that road, especially having lived through the Matt Harvey fiasco in 2015. But even the possibility of it could create an unnecessary strain in the clubhouse, where teammate-disapproval all but forced Harvey to abandon Scott Boras' plan to limit his innings as the postseason approached four years ago.
The bottom line is Van Wagenen is trying to change the vibe around the Mets after two losing seasons, some of it with his bold talk that seems to be a way of telling his players they're all in this together.
It doesn't mean the new GM should create a sense of entitlement in the clubhouse by giving them anything they want. But suffice it to say players will view Van Wagenen more cynically than he'd like if he can't find a way to get a deal done with deGrom.