John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Everyone seems shocked that Jacob deGrom left the door open to the notion he'd consider limiting his innings in 2019 if he doesn't the contract extension he wants. But, sorry, I can't buy into the outrage.
This isn't Matt Harvey, suddenly springing the idea of shutting himself down in the heat of a September pennant race.
Nope, this is deGrom following a negotiating strategy outlined by his agents in an attempt to create the only leverage he has at the moment. And, in truth, the Mets' ace didn't appear comfortable with the idea, hemming and hawing at his press conference as he said he'd have to consider whatever his agents thought was best for him.
It's still a bad look, no question, especially for a guy who is beloved by fans as being a warrior, an image that was forged in the 2015 postseason when he famously gutted his way through six innings of that do-or-die Game 5 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers without his good fastball.
And if somehow deGrom ever followed through on such a threat, fans would have as much reason to turn on him as they did Harvey.
I just think there's a better chance Jason Vargas emerges as the ace of the 2019 staff than there is of deGrom limiting himself in any way if the Mets are in a race for a postseason berth.
Even beyond his competitive nature and commitment to teammates, deGrom surely knows that pulling such a stunt would be less defensible than what Harvey wanted to do in 2015 -- before the angry reaction by fans and teammates embarrassed him into scrapping the Scott Boras shut-down plan.
After all, Harvey hadn't even reached arbitration at the time, so he was making $614,000 in that first season back from Tommy John surgery, while living a celebrity-obsessed, multi-million dollar lifestyle. Indeed, Mets' people at the time were speculating that Boras was financing some of that lifestyle, banking on Harvey making huge money eventually.
DeGrom, meanwhile, will earn $17 million this season, in addition to the $13 million he has earned in his career to date. So good luck trying to conjure up any sympathy from the working-man Mets' fan on the idea that the right-hander needs to put his future ahead of trying to win a championship.
Never mind that deGrom is far more likeable and respected than Harvey. At that point, it wouldn't matter.
So why is he risking any sort of damage to his image by saying he would consider such a possibility? Because it's February and he wants to see if applying this sort of public pressure will force the Mets to give him the contract extension he wants.
Look, it's the Mets' prerogative if they prefer not to take the risk of giving deGrom a long-term deal two years before he reaches free agency, especially since he'll be heading into his age-33 season by then. You can even make the case that it's good business to wait.
Nevertheless, barring some drastic drop-off in performance, deGrom's price is only going to rise the closer he gets to free agency. So, if you're the Mets, you can only sell that wait-and-see strategy if you're committed to paying whatever it takes to make sure he doesn't leave as a free agent.
That, of course, is a problem since the Mets haven't spent like a New York franchise for a decade, going back to the Madoff-related financial issues.
In any case, if that is their strategy, deGrom at least deserves to hear it rather than the GM-speak coming from Brodie Van Wagenen on Thursday, when he repeatedly said the Mets were looking for "clarity" regarding a potential contract extension before making any sort of offer.
Come on now, does anybody believe that Van Wagenen doesn't know exactly what it would take to get a deal done, considering he surely discussed specific numbers with deGrom as his agent before becoming the Mets' GM?
That's where deGrom has every right to be frustrated. Even if it's ownership's decision -- not Van Wagenen's -- on whether to commit to a long-term deal, either the Mets want to talk about a deal or they don't.
Van Wagenen is saying they do, so if that's the case, they at least need to make a serious offer. It can be on their terms, to some extent, as deGrom should be willing to take a discount if he wants the peace of mind of not worrying about injury before reaching free agency.
And, like it or not, deGrom also will have to acknowledge that the way things are going on the free-agent front, especially with analytics dictating caution for players in their 30s, he may not be as desirable hitting the market going into his age-33 season as he'd like to believe.
All of which means it makes sense for both sides to get a deal done for, say, five years and $125 million.
However, if it doesn't happen, the only real danger is deGrom moving closer to the door in two years. He's not about to give the Mets anything less than his best in 2019, no matter what he's saying at the moment.