While Sandy Alderson and the rest of the Mets front office are busy trying to dump spare part Jay Bruce and fill out the bullpen, there’s another important move they need to consider – securing the services of some of their young starting pitchers. While all of the big five are currently under control, so to speak, it would be foolish to let them all play through their rookie contracts and arbitration years on the way to free agency. In that scenario we’d have two more seasons of Matt Harvey, three of Zack Wheeler, four of Jacob deGrom, five of Noah Syndergaard, and six of Steven Matz, followed by successive off-seasons of draft pick compensation. There’s a better way.
Following the 2014 season and their first year of arbitration, Chris Sale and Madison Bumgarner, now widely considered two of the best starting pitchers in baseball, signed five-year contracts that bought out their remaining arbitration years, plus a few years of free agency. Now these bonafide aces are locked up at reasonable rates through 2019. Sale’s contract is for five years, $32.5 million with escalating contracts of $6-$9.15- $12-$12.5-$15 million. He is now entering the third year of what now has to be considered a team-friendly contract. No wonder the Red Sox were willing to part with two of the best prospects in baseball for him. Bumgarner signed a similar deal at the same time for five years, $35 million, plus a prorated signing bonus of $1 million. This breaks down as $7-$10-$11.7-$12-$12 million. That’s right, arguably the greatest post season pitcher in history will make just $11.7 million this year.
It might be a year premature for this talk as only Matt Harvey has reached the same point (between first and second arbitration years) that Sale and Bumgarner reached. And given that Harvey’s agent is Scott Boras, it’s not likely he’d be amenable to such a deal. Boras is inevitably going to push Harvey to play out the next two seasons and secure the biggest free agent contract he can land. But what’s the harm in putting an offer out there? It would set the tone for next season when we’ll need to make this offer to deGrom and possibly Syndergaard. It’s a few years later now, so these particular numbers might not get it done, but even tack on 20 percent and we could still come up with a similar five-year deal (5/$42mm) that might not be enough to entice Harvey, but could eventually get it done for deGrom and Syndergaard. Now, it’s definitely too premature to think about Wheeler, who still has to prove he can stay healthy and Matz who is still three seasons away from hitting arbitration. However, it’s time to start planning for the other three.
deGrom is an interesting case because he has super two status – this means he’s eligible for arbitration now, a year ahead of schedule, and will qualify for four years of arbitration. If he keeps pitching the way he has, those last two years of arbitration could get very expensive. By all accounts, deGrom and Syndergaard love being here and their teammates, the organization, and fans all love having them here. Another thing to consider is that these two share the same agency – CAA Sports. Let’s talk about how we can lock them up and keep them in orange and blue for the foreseeable future.