Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Jacob deGrom has not yet set any deadlines for extension talks with the Mets, and he has not yet threatened to limit the team's usage of him. But with his side disappointed with the lack of progress, it's worth looking at the CAA playbook in dealing with similar situations.
In February of 2012, Ryan Zimmerman's agent Brodie Van Wagenen set a deadline for extension talks with the Washington Nationals.
With two years remaining before free agency, Zimmerman did not want contract talks to distract his team during spring training or the season, so Van Wagenen told the Nats that he would not talk after the beginning of spring training. If the sides had not agreed in that time frame -- and they ultimately did during the weekend of the deadline -- Zimmerman would likely have tested free agency after the 2013 season.
Last year, Jeff Berry, the co-head of CAA baseball who became deGrom's agent when Van Wagenen left to run the Mets, issued a memo to players in response to the slow free agent market. The memo suggested that if teams were using analytics to devalue players, the players should consider protecting themselves by demanding restrictions on the teams' use of them.
Berry wrote of "guidelines for player usage for the stated purpose of maximizing health and performance, maintaining/improving tools and athleticism, and mitigating age and usage related decline. Basically, a reverse engineering of the aging curves and usage rates that teams are currently weaponizing against the players."
Translation, as it relates to this situation: If deGrom is going to be a free agent in his 30s, it might be smart business to pitch less until then.
DeGrom has not yet set a deadline for extension talks. If he did, it wouldn't be the opening of camp, which happens next week, though Opening Day is a possibility. Nor has he yet heeded the advice in Berry's memo, and told the Mets that if they are not going to commit to him, they must protect his health. But the ace's camp is definitely perturbed by the lack of progress. In a column in the New York Post on Monday, Joel Sherman used the word "disappointed," and that is consistent with our understanding of the situation.
During the winter meetings in Las Vegas, a CAA contingent met with Mets brass (minus Van Wagenen, who was recused because he represented deGrom), and left with the expectation that a long-term offer was coming. Nearly two months later, that hasn't happened.
In that time, the Mets gave deGrom an historic raise in salary arbitration, with a one-year, $17 million contract -- a $9.6 million raise that represented the largest arbitration bump in MLB history. They also continued to internally discuss the wisdom of extending him.
To be sure, there are valid points on both sides. DeGrom won the Cy Young Award, has been a stellar teammate, and surely feels that he deserves to be paid as a top pitcher in the game.
On the other hand, the Mets control deGrom for two more years, and are under no obligation to offer more. One could certainly argue that an extension coming off a Cy Young season would not be smart business.
But there is also the human element. What if deGrom sets a deadline? What if he tells the team that since he seemed headed to free agency, they can't pitch him as frequently, or as deep into games?
This could still end well. Van Wagenen has not changed his position that he wants deGrom to be a part of the Mets' core for years to come, and the sides will likely talk in spring training. DeGrom wants the same. Perhaps that common ground will be enough to bring progress in the near future.