Baseball free agency is a slow moving, ugly dance. Arbitration hearings show the ugliest side, although they are advertised as a civilized meeting to get to a contract agreement. In reality, they prove often to be “justified” character attacks on players by teams who often don’t want to budge on their contract offers. This moves to further splinter relationships between players and their teams. So far, the Mets have been lucky enough to avoid that with ace pitcher Jacob deGrom. With his one year, $17 million contract, deGrom will live another year knowing that he does not have long-term security.
Meanwhile, Aaron Nola and Luis Severino both agreed to contract extensions that have a maximum potential of five years this past week. While both of those pitchers are not on the same level as deGrom, they are both quality pitchers who have both finished third in a respective Cy Young race. Severino’s deal is worth $52.5 million over his five years, while Nola’s is worth $56.75 million. In Nola’s case, it is astonishing that they got a player that young to commit to a contract for such a reasonable price.
If Nola does indeed pitch like he did last season, the deal could be a serious bargain for the Philadelphia Phillies. Not only do they have Nola long-term, but it affords them the opportunity to be able to make a run at high priced free agents such as a Bryce Harper, or a Mike Trout in the not so distant future. If you are a Phillies fan, a deal like that is the perfect scenario. If you are a Mets fan, or deGrom, it could not be any more troubling.
The Mets, who seem to keep balking on the prospect of extending deGrom, have undoubtedly taken special notice of the deal the Phillies made with Nola. In an offseason that has seen such low numbers of players sign to teams, it was a bit out of left field to see a pitcher of Nola’s status to take an extremely team friendly deal. Nola signing that extension gives the Mets another weapon to use against deGrom in potential negotiations. Nola, in effect, lowered the bar and killed the momentum that MLB free agents had going against MLB teams.
Earlier in the offseason, Yasmani Grandal turned down a deal that was worth $60 million over four years from the Mets. His reason for rejecting the deal was that he did not want to lower the average salary that catchers would make. He instead settled for a one year deal with the Brewers worth $18.25 million. Nola and Severino rocked the boat in terms of taking a team friendly deal, and in effect, have made the contract situation with deGrom very interesting.
Whether or not you believe that deGrom should receive a large contract extension, it goes without saying that MLB needs to find a new way to handle free agency. With the way things are headed, and the relationships between players and teams becoming more and more splintered, it is evident that things need to change.