On a potential long-term deal for Jacob deGrom

We’re all familiar with the game on the field. And there are a bunch of rules that maybe don’t make much sense yet we accept that we need rules and move on. Why does a pitcher have to face a batter but a batter doesn’t have to face a pitcher? Why is it okay to deceive a batter but not okay to deceive a runner? Why can a runner go past first and home but not second and third?

It’s no different with the game off the field. Well, maybe it’s a little easier to explain, as the rules started out to benefit the owners over the players and anything that approaches fairness for the players was won thanks to the efforts of the MLBPA. Still, at the end of the day, there are rules in place and you use the rules to the best of your ability, no different than busting it down the first base line and going 10 steps beyond the bag. Because you can.

The arbitration system in baseball is good. Now, we can argue about how long it takes to kick in and how long a player is subject to arbitration before he becomes a free agent but what’s not up for debate is that it sure beats the alternative. Don’t believe me? Just look at football and Le’Veon Bell. One of the top backs in football, Bell couldn’t agree on a contract with the Steelers and his only choices were to accept what the team offered or hold out. He’s opted for the latter and hasn’t played a snap this season.

Holdouts used to be more common in baseball, perhaps the most famous example was when Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale teamed up on a holdout to get more money. But we have arbitration now and that no longer happens.

As Mets fans, we know that barring a trade or injury, Jacob deGrom is going to pitch for the team. We know he’s going to be there for Spring Training and we know he’ll be there on Opening Day. Without the arbitration system, it’s very likely that deGrom would be like football’s Bell, a holdout trying to get something close to fair value for his services

To be certain, arbitration salaries are still significantly lower than what a star player could get on the free market. But they’re much closer to fair market than what pre-arbitration players can get. The system is still stacked in favor of the owners. Players get paid not just on their production but also on a tiered system. A player just starting arbitration will make less than a player in his last season of arbitration, talent being equal. Also, if the owners feel like a player is going to get more in arbitration than they want to pay, they can opt out of the game by not tendering the player a contract.

But these are the rules.

MLBTR puts out arbitration forecasts for all eligible players. This year’s projections are out and they have deGrom meriting a $12.9 million salary, more than twice what they predict for Noah Syndergaard. Is deGrom twice as good as Syndergaard? He was last year, in part because of the time missed by Syndergaard. But few would argue that in terms of true talent level that deGrom was that superior. But he’s forecasted for that edge because he got to arbitration earlier as a Super Two and he’s on his third year of arbitration, while Syndergaard is on his second.

What might deGrom’s salary be if he was a free agent? Well, FanGraphs pegs his 2018 season being worth $70.1 million. Now, no club would pay him that. But it’s safe to assume he would get more than $12.9 million if all clubs could pursue him. Last year, Jake Arrieta received a complex free agent contract that paid him $30 million in 2018 as part of a 3/$75 million deal with various opt out and team option clauses. It seems likely deGrom would get a better deal than that.

During the last offseason, deGrom’s agent publicly called for the club to sign his client to a long-term deal. Because deGrom was not eligible for free agency, there was zero economic incentive for the Mets to honor that request. But, in a development that no one saw at this time a year ago, deGrom’s agent is now the GM of the Mets. Does the GM still hold the belief that the former agent had?

Well, he shouldn’t.

The rules of the game give the Mets the opportunity to go to arbitration with deGrom this year and next year. And deGrom will earn a boatload of money in those two seasons but still well short of what he would command if he was a free agent. For years now, we’ve heard that the Mets should sign deGrom to a long-term deal. Everyone wants the peace of mind knowing that he will be with the team for his entire career.

But what the fans want doesn’t equal what’s good business sense for the team. And what’s good business sense for the team could/should translate into a better team for the fans. Would you rather pay market rate for deGrom today or would you rather pay him a depressed arbitration salary and use those savings to buy J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins or pick up a free agent like Wilson Ramos or Craig Kimbrel?

Additionally, what’s working against deGrom is that he made the majors as an older player. With younger players, it makes sense for both sides when a club buys out a few years of free agency. The player gets more money than he would in his arb years and the club gets a break on the free agency ones. But the equation is different for a guy like Bryce Harper, who’s hitting free agency at age 26 than it does for deGrom, who’ll hit free agency at age 32.

Going back to Arrieta, in his age 29 season in 2015, he put up a 7.3 fWAR en route to a Cy Young Award. At age 30 he put up a 3.8 mark and at age 31 he was at a 2.4 level. If the Cubs had given him a long-term deal after 2015 – when he still had two seasons of arbitration left – they would have massively overpaid for him.

That’s just one example and by no means does one example mean that’s what will happen with deGrom. It’s beyond the scope of this piece to examine how every pitcher in his late 20s with two years of arbitration left performed. But Arrieta is a shining example of why the Mets should ignore the pleas of agents and cries from fans to rush out and give deGrom a long-term deal. It makes more sense to do a deal of that type with Syndergaard. Or possibly Zack Wheeler if you think his season-long results in 2018 are indicative of what he’ll do going forward.

Supposedly, the hiring of Brodie Van Wagenen as GM indicates a new boldness for the club. One indication of boldness is the willingness to go against the wishes of your fan base when you know it’s not in the best interest of your team. Will the Mets and Van Wagenen be bold with his former client? My guess is that they won’t. The fans in 2018 will be thrilled if/when deGrom comes away with a long-term contract. But will they feel the same way in 2022?

37 comments for “On a potential long-term deal for Jacob deGrom

  1. October 31, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    I think Jake ages like Scherzer has remember when Jake was hurt in 2016 and still was worth three war, I would give him a 4-5 year deal.

    • Eric Bloom
      October 31, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      completely agree. I think he’s good into his age 35 or 36 season. Lock him up for 5 or 6 years at an avg annual of 25 million (front loaded).

  2. October 31, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    All things considered. If I were Syndergaard or Jake, I would not throw a pitch without a Long deal.

    • Joe F
      October 31, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      Are you suggesting they hold out and forego salary this year? They have both shown disdain for the low pay in the past, but blame the player control system, not the Mets for playing the game. If either blowout their arms, the Mets don’t have an option for not paying them and no players are sitting out because they are in the Arb system

      • November 2, 2018 at 9:08 am

        Joe… If I were either of them, I would not throw a Pitch…and/or, I’d express “Public UnHappiness” with the Pay/security situation.

        Make no mistake.;..Signing deGrom is as much a Public Relations issue as it is an issue about team quality. They need to show their commitment to “Win Now” with both Fans and FA Targets.

        Personally, I’d look for a Bargain with deGrom…and I believe they need to be very serious in pursuit of Machado…He’s a fit. I’d vastly over pay him on a 3-5 year deal…I’d avoid the 8-10 year deal, selling him on his own opportunity to cash in Now…and again at 29-31 years old.

        I am a big fan of enticing Wheeler….I’m a lesser Fan of anything to do with Syndergaard. He will be expensive and risky…I don’t believe in “what he does” as a long term proposition—I need to see him develop beyond throwing the ball through a wall.

  3. Metsense
    October 31, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    This is a stuff situation. Every recent Met superstar, Wright, Beltran and Santana, had long term agreements and then got injured. I shudder about that lost production while they were injured and the team was unable to replace them because the money was spent. I don’t agree with the Wilpon’s. The insurance money is should be invested back into the team. This philosophy has got to change. The other superstar, Cespedes, also has gotten injured but he only had a four year contract which as not normal for a superstar. Of course he was overpaid but that’s probably why he signed and was the Mets philosphy in the negotiations.
    So this is my thinking on deGrom: he is a team leader and respected by his teammates.He should be offered and five year fair market contract. (that is one more year than I like, especially for a pitcher).If he refuses then trade him and restocked like what the Mets did with RA Dickey. I love the deGrominator but this is a business.

    • November 1, 2018 at 2:12 am

      What’s a fair market value deal? Kershaw or Greinke at 30 to 32 million per year? That’s 150 to 160 million for now. I don’t think the Coupons will do it. It’s about pitching. This past WS showed us that. The Mets have the SP which is so hard to find. Keep it intact shore up the pen.

      • Metsense
        November 1, 2018 at 7:35 am

        Yes, 32 M per year is the fair market value for the best pitcher in the league. So that’s 96 million for the last 3 years of the contract.His two arbitration years he would get 13 million and possibly 18 millionso that’s another 31 million and then add another 5 million for a signing bonus.The total is 5/132. That would be a fair market contract. The Wilpons get current prices and deGrom gets the security of 132 million dollars in 2019. Gus and I are probably on the same page with the length and terms of the contract.

        • November 1, 2018 at 8:19 am

          But what if he isn’t the best pitcher in the league? Do you really want to pay $32 million a year if 2022-2023 deGrom turns into the 2nd half of 2018 Arrieta?

          And if he remains at an elite level through all five years – what have you gained? You paid market value and got it. If you’re willing to pay market value – why take the risk that he’ll stink at the back end of the contract? Go through arbitration the next two years and then pay him market value when his arb time is up.

          For a long-term deal for deGrom to make business sense, you’ve got to get him signed at below market rate. Otherwise you’re letting emotions get the better of you.

          • Metsense
            November 1, 2018 at 8:13 am

            Brian, you know my past , so I wouln’t advice deGrom to take below market value . As it is, he is negotiating with 2019 dollars. It’s not my emotions that are getting the better of me but it is my experience when negotiating. Yes you are right about the risk of injury or depreciating performance but you have to evaluate the risk of losing the best pitcher in 2021 by low balling his contract. I think our difference is the commitment of the five years And his performance level.

            • Metsense
              November 1, 2018 at 8:30 am

              As a fan’s perspective, Mets should try at get in at 4/100 contract but then deGrom would want more years and reject the 4/100. I think 5 years is risky but fair. 6 + or more I would not be comfortable either.

            • November 1, 2018 at 9:25 am

              My concern is that the Mets sign JDG to a long-term deal and he takes a big fall in production, becoming an anchor at his salary. What’s your concern? That he’ll be ticked off at the Mets and leave? I’d say that’s a potential outcome. But we have to assume that the Mets are willing to pay market rate (which is what you have him being paid at) once he becomes eligible for free agency. What are the odds that JDG maintains elite level, the Mets are willing to pay market rate and he still chooses to leave? I can’t see the odds of all three of those things happening together being very high. I’d put that trifecta in single digits.

              The Mets already made a $50 million mistake with Wright. The extent of the Cespedes mistake isn’t known yet but it’s probably in the same neighborhood. They shouldn’t be in a hurry to make a similar snafu with deGrom.

              Someone else made the comparison to Scherzer. In the last four years, Scherzer had put up 25.4 fWAR. If deGrom puts up a 6.0 fWAR in 2019 (he had an 8.8 mark in 2018) you can talk about a long-term deal this time next year. But if like Arrieta he loses half his value after his big season, you’re not stuck holding the bag.

              • TexasGusCC
                November 1, 2018 at 10:02 am

                Brian, I see your point… what if he gives you a home town discount to sign now, say, $25MM for his three FA years and keeping the arbitration numbers, so a grand total of about $105-107MM? Is this a sufficient enough approach to locking him up now if you were the Mets?

                Don’t forget, in your own writing above you say that he wants fair market value right now and used Bell as the example. Keeping the arbitration years in the contract is not fair market value, and neither Metsense nor I shied away from incorporating those figures, but by adding in those three years at Kershaw rates it give JdG peace of mind. But nonetheless, how do you feel about my second proposal?

                • November 1, 2018 at 11:16 am

                  I don’t see why JDG gives the Mets a home town discount not after your agent leaves you to go to the other side. Again why should he? I also feel his arbitration projection is way too low. On any team with an offense and a pen he easily wins 20 games.

                  • TexasGusCC
                    November 1, 2018 at 1:15 pm

                    Because if he doesn’t, what motivation do the Mets have to lock him up right now? If he does, then both sides lose a little and win a little.

  4. Met fan 4ever
    October 31, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    Cespedes,Wright,Beltran and Santana,they all seemed like good ideas at the time. Remember when everyone was worried about not jumping the gun and extending Harvey? Baseball in the 2018s is a young player’s game.

  5. TJ
    October 31, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    The Mets have had terrible fortune with their long term deals, and baseball circa 2018 is most certainly a young man’s game. I see Jake as a very young thirty. 900 MLB innings after only 300+ minor league innings, wasn’t a pitcher until age 20, already had TJS, very athletic. I would make every effort to buy out his last two arb seasons with a five year deal that provides his family with lifetime security. The perfect way for the Mets to make a statement.

  6. TexasGusCC
    November 1, 2018 at 1:22 am

    I would like to pick up where TJ left off because I agree with him 100%. The player I’d trade is Wheeler. Wheels just celebrated his first healthy year, and it took bone shots to accomplish it. I have asked in the past if these shots were legal. I thought anything – HGH, steroids, amphetimenes – were not allowed because it affects the performance or artificially gives a player more advantage than they’d normally have.

    What I would offer deGrom which is kind of fair but still protects both sides is a five year deal that encompasses his value for the two arbitration years and the value a top pitcher gets. So, say he gets $13 this year and $19 next year, then as a free agent gets market value for his age at $31, $30, $29 per year for the next three, thus the total value is $122MM. By doing a five year deal for that amount, give JDG peace of mind and the Mets a shorter term deal but a realistic one for them, too. The terms can be more back loaded to allow for more flexibility now, such as a breakdown of $18, $22, $24, $28, $30 for the term.

    • Name
      November 1, 2018 at 10:46 am

      In 2018 there was 1 bona fida pitcher (Verlander) and 1 maybe pitcher (Happ) aged 35+ a that was worth 20+ mil.
      For 34 year olds – the list was Greinke, Morton, Lester, and maybe hamels.
      For 33 year olds it’s Scherzer and maybe Mike Fiers.

      Any deGrom extension starts at age 33. Anyone who is clamoring to sign deGrom to an extension and actually expecting to him to produce at a high level at those age levels is doing so based on emotion rather than ration. And my list above is using a reduced 20 mil threshold.

      Rationally, the Mets gain nothing from locking up years 33-35, unless he takes less money for his final 2 arb years and the Mets actually use the money saved for something else.

      • Metsense
        November 1, 2018 at 1:01 pm

        Name, I respect your opinion but I think deGrom is one of those pitchers. We will only know in 5 years. God willing we can both know the answer.

        • Name
          November 1, 2018 at 12:59 pm

          Going back to earlier comment, you mentioned that the best SPs right now make $32 million. Do you forsee that best salary price to rise over the next 2 years? I certainly don’t. Not in the age of bullpening.

          If everything goes right for him and he’s still the best pitcher 2 years from now, would he turn down the best salary because the Mets didn’t give it to him 2 years ago?

          If he does regress, well then you can negotiate down and you saved yourself from overpaying 2 years ago.

          • TJ
            November 1, 2018 at 7:43 pm

            Name,
            You definitely make a good point regarding age, but I see deGrom a litlle differently. I see much less mileage on his 30 year old arm than on many of the comps. Coming up as a SS, switching to pitching at age 20, missing a lot of minor league time due to TJS. I see his total innings accumulation as being very low for an elite 30 year old. He is more 27-28 in pitching mileage, and that combined with his athleticism makes him a press good risk over the next 5 years. Kershaw is almost the same exact age, but with over 1,100 more MLB innings plus all the pre-MLB innings. He will get paid handsomely, but I’d much rather pay Jake when banking on future performance.

            • Name
              November 2, 2018 at 12:44 pm

              I buy the ‘deGrom will age better because of less innings’ argument, but it’s one thing to say he’ll age better with less risk and another to say he’ll be worth $30+ mil in those seasons.

              Aging better could mean that he’s a $20 million pitcher in those seasons rather than a $10 million pitcher.

              • TJ
                November 2, 2018 at 6:52 pm

                Agreed.

  7. November 1, 2018 at 3:42 am

    Catching…Bullpen…Bench…. It will take Brains and Money to solve for those needs. It will only take Money to keep the Starting Pitching together.

    “We’re going to Win Now…” is going to take a lot of Both Brains and Money. You cannot begin to sign $25 million Pitchers if you’re going to continue with thin and short and unbalanced Positional Player Rosters.

    Brains…Money…. I don’t need a “finished team” by the end of Hot Stove, but they have a heckuva lot of work just to start. The Regular Seasons have sucked, but it’s going to be a very, very interesting Winter.

    • Chris F
      November 1, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      just curious how catching, pen, and bench gets better defense and more speed and generally more diversified offense, and really more offense.

  8. November 1, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Gus – I’m pretty sure that I didn’t say deGrom wants fair value now. What I’ve heard him – or rather his former agent – say is that he wanted a long-term deal. No player under two years of arb control gets fair market value in an LT deal.

    My opinion is that it’s a mistake to give a pitcher with two years of arb control left while entering his age 31 season a 5-year deal unless you’re getting a really big break. What you proposed is potentially a break but it wouldn’t be big enough for me to pull the trigger. There’s still to much risk compared to the reward.

    Build a team that deGrom doesn’t want to leave and pay him market value when he’s a free agent. Syndergaard and Wheeler are the guys to look at it you want to sign a LT deal. While it’s a big if — if Wheeler is the guy he was in his last dozen or so starts, there’s potential to lock him up to a 3 or 4-year deal and save a ton of money.

    • TexasGusCC
      November 1, 2018 at 1:23 pm

      Ok, let’s run with your idea. If you are hesitant on extending JDG based on his age, then maybe he’s the one you trade for a truckload now. However, the fact that Wheeler needed bone shots to stay healthy makes me worry as 1. He gets older. 2. He signs and get comfortable. I’d rather bank on JDG.

      • November 1, 2018 at 1:28 pm

        I don’t see the point in trading him now. You won’t get more for him now than at the trade deadline. You hold on to him now and see if everything breaks right and if you’re in contention for a playoff spot. If it’s a repeat of last year, you can look to move him after BVW has had 9 months on the job.

        • TexasGusCC
          November 1, 2018 at 2:22 pm

          ok, but a long term plan wont be affected by a bad start or not. My point is to make a determination on who you want to keep because if the choice is to keep JDG, you need to trade Wheeler now. If the choice is to keep Wheeler, then in July you move JDG. It’s Wheeler’s free agency that is driving the urgency.

          • November 1, 2018 at 3:54 pm

            Long-term strategy is to build a team that wins both now and the future. There’s no reason that a winning team can’t afford the contracts for JDG, Noah, Wheeler, Conforto and Nimmo.

            The 2011 Phillies had eight different guys making 10 figures apiece with a total overall payroll of $165 million. The key is they didn’t piss away $5 million here and $8 million there.

            Edit – making eight figures apiece. That’s per year

            • TexasGusCC
              November 1, 2018 at 9:27 pm

              LOL if the Coupons are going to spend $165MM on just 8 guys, I’d be shocked. Besides, if I were the GM, I don’t know that I’d bank on Wheeler. Too many breakdowns to think that it won’t happen as often as it used to. He’s 29 and next year 30, I don’t know… I’d sell high on him and sign Lance Lynn.

              • November 1, 2018 at 9:43 pm

                No, you misunderstood – the total team payroll even with those 8 guys making 8 figures was $165

                Wow, Wheeler coming off the finest stretch of his career is too old to invest in at 30 but Lance Lynn, who’ll be 32 and is coming off a year with a 4.77 ERA and a 1.526 WHIP, is a guy you want to get.

                Wow, just wow.

                • TexasGusCC
                  November 1, 2018 at 11:00 pm

                  Wow, just wow. I say that all the time, and I learned it from my teenage servers, LOL.

                  My point was to sell high on Wheeler for talent, and sign a #4 replacement, be it Lynn or someone decent. If I can’t find the deal I like but Wheeler really wants to stay a Met that bad (3/40), I could go that route. But, my preference would be to get a nice haul for Wheeler because I can’t trust his health. Conversely, I trust JDG’s health enough to feel that my money probably won’t be sitting on the DL. That was my whole point.

  9. Steevy
    November 1, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    To me it is a no brainer.No long term deal.Not at his age and position(pitcher health being notoriously precarious).

  10. November 1, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    Managing to perfection and barring all failure makes any big ticket FA an instant No…. That makes you the Oakland A’s.

    The Mets can afford to miss in an effort to succeed…and they will hit and miss when they try.

    It did surprise me that Jeff W seemed to indicate a deGrom Signing as imminent. I’d rather see the younger guys….maybe Wheeler. I will say again…If I’m deGrom or Noah, I’m going L’veon Bell—I wouldnt throw a pitch without some long cash. I’m guessing that deGrom has communicated this in private.

  11. MattyMets
    November 1, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    I’m in agreement with Metssense. BVW needs to see what deGrom wants and how far the Willons are willing to go. If they are miles apart then a trade may be the way to go. Right now he’s a slowly depreciating asset, getting older and closer to free agency. I want to see him a Met for life, but I’d rather trade him now for a franchise changing haul of young talent than in 18 months for a prospect or two.

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