It seems like the World Series just ended (probably because it did), but, as baseball fans know, the MLB offseason stops for no one. The annual GM Meetings are already underway in Las Vegas with plenty to discuss ahead of free agency, with Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Jacob deGrom seen as this year’s top prizes. It’s the latter name that Mets fans are most concerned about, fearful of losing a likely Hall-of-Famer and one of the most gifted arms to ever pass through Queens.
It’s been suggested by deGrom’s former teammate Zack Wheeler (now of the Phillies) that the two-time Cy Young winner is “happy” in New York, but also desires to be “compensated for what he’s done,” suggesting he’d at least entertain the idea of signing elsewhere. Known for his liberal spending and a willingness to go well above the league’s $233-million luxury tax threshold, owner Steve Cohen’s win-at-all-costs mindset should give Mets fans some measure of solace heading into their negotiations with deGrom, particularly after bankrolling Edwin Diaz’s $102-million contract, the largest payout for a relief pitcher in MLB history.
Even with his age (34) and injury history seen as possible deterrents, deGrom is quantifiably sitting on a pot of free-agent gold, with only two mysteries left to unspool—who’s footing the bill and for how much? Jon Heyman, who, along with New York Post colleague Joel Sherman, made the pilgrimage to this week’s Winter Meetings in Sin City, sees it as a two-horse race between the Mets and Rangers, though he did concede others—the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants among them—could make things interesting. Heyman also warns that entrants in the deGrom sweepstakes should be prepared to pay a king’s ransom, hearing from one GM the right-hander could go for as much as $40 million annually.
DeGrom, whose 2.53 career ERA ranks second among active pitchers, could make a run at teammate Max Scherzer’s record $43.3-million salary, though Heyman suspects he’ll probably have to settle for lower, owing to a lack of competition with only a handful of suitors to drive up his price.
“DeGrom is fighting a couple of issues, though, and not just the various injuries that have kept him out over the past couple of years,” writes Heyman. “The other issue is a likely limited field of suitors, which is mostly because of his high asking price, but which is partly about the concern related to the injuries in combination with an ask that’s expected to be in the record Max Scherzer $43.3 million ballpark, or more.”
Even without deGrom, the Mets’ payroll next year is the highest in MLB. That’s a significant roadblock to navigate, though it may not matter, with Cohen ready to shell out big money to make sure there won’t be a repeat of last month’s playoff disappointment, bowing out to the underdog Padres in humiliating fashion.