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Jacob deGrom Should Hold Out

Last year, in the midst of what was a Cy Young season, Jacob deGrom‘s agent made what can be best classified as a demand for an extension.

Specifically, his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen said, “We have discussed Jacob’s future with the Mets at length. Jacob has expressed interest in exploring a long-term partnership that would keep him in a Mets uniform for years to come. If the Mets don’t share same interest, we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now. The inertia of current situation could complicate Jacob’s relationship with the club and creates an atmosphere of indecision.”

Since that time, Van Wagenen was hired as the Mets General Manager, and he is thereby prevented from negotiating a contract extension for deGrom due to the existing conflict of interests.

When Van Wagenen was hired, he merely offered, “I’d love to try to keep him if it’s possible. We’ll explore that in the coming weeks.”

A few weeks after Van Wagenen was introduced as the General Manager, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said, “I’m sure at some point we’ll get to speaking to Jake.”

According to reports, discussions have taken place, but no deal has been consummated. Even with deGrom’s arbitration case pending, no extension was consummated. However, it should be noted the two sides agreed to a record setting arbitration raise and $17 million salary for deGrom.

It’s been six months since deGrom’s extension demand and three months since Van Wagenen was hired, and it appears “inertia” has set in. As predicted by Van Wagenen things may be getting complicated.

As Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported, “Eight weeks later and without any substantive talks since has left the deGrom camp, at minimum, disappointed, especially because the public comments of Mets executives matched what the agents were told privately — that reaching an agreement to avoid deGrom becoming a free agent after the 2020 season was vital to the organization.”

Perhaps this is a coincidence, but it should be noted this was reported a day after The Michael Kay Show and Mike Francesca were lockstep against the extension with Francesca going so far as to say, “It would be the dumbest move in the history of mankind.”

While people may or may not think it is a good idea for the Mets to extend deGrom, this is the exact moment deGrom should be seeking an extension, and he should be utilizing the leverage he has to get it.

As noted in the aforementioned Sherman article, deGrom’s new agent, Jeff Barry, sent a memo to players urging them to respond in kind to the way owners have been handling free agency. If owners are going to use analytics to justify not saying players, players should use them to protect themselves. As noted by Sherman, this would mean someone like deGrom demanding he be used under 200 innings in order to keep him healthy heading into free agency.

Certainly, you could understand deGrom wanting to pursue that path after seeing what happened with Matt Harvey. Harvey was supposed to be a prime member of this free agent class. Instead, his career has fallen apart partially because of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. There are some who wonder what part in Harvey’s health issues his ignoring his agent’s advice and pitching deep into the postseason had on his career.

Taking all this into account, deGrom needs to use all of his leverage to get that deal now.

And deGrom has a lot of leverage. The Mets just lost the face of their franchise with David Wright medically retiring leaving deGrom as the likely heir to that title. The team has spent the offseason going all-in to try to win the World Series this year. It’s a plan which is partially predicated on deGrom being the ace. It’s a plan which begins to fall apart when deGrom has to be replaced in the rotation by one of the Mets other starting pitching options:

Pitcher ERA
P.J. Conlon 8.22
Drew Gagnon 5.25
Kyle Dowdy (AA & AAA) 5.15
Chris Flexen 12.79
Walker Lockett 9.60
Corey Oswalt 5.85
Hector Santiago (as a SP) 6.12

That’s a massive drop-off, and it is one deGrom may be pressured into exploiting to get his contract. While Barry’s suggestion to the players to set parameters could help, it may not be sufficient. After all, if the Mets fall apart again in May again, any request to hold back deGrom’s innings is not going to have the same force and effect as it would with a competitive team. Even worse, if deGrom gets hurt his leverage goes completely away, and the Mets are left questioning if they should even give deGrom an extension.

Really, anytime deGrom takes the mound in 2019 he is taking a chance. With his having had Tommy John surgery and an ulnar nerve transposition, he knows that as well as anyone. He should realize that all the more after he went on the disabled list after hyper-extending his elbow during an at-bat. Breaking it down, he knows that because he’s a Mets player.

Examining his leverage and what’s at stake, deGrom needs to seriously consider holding out.

To get the deal he wants, deGrom needs to consider telling the Mets he will not take the mound without an extension. If he and his agents truly feel the Mets are not prioritizing him and are dragging their feet on an extension, he needs to stop pitching. Let the Mets get a taste of their lacking starting pitching depth and realize if they are going to win they need deGrom.

Such a maneuver may not be well received, but with the beginnings of a media campaign against it, why should deGrom care? You may believe he may not be the type of player who would consider this, and that’s fine. It’s part of the reason why people love him. However, you do have to question when enough is going to be enough for him.

They hire his agent, and then the team goes ahead and puts him on the back burner. The man who was in charge of his contract is now giving money that could have been given to him to other players. Pitchers and catchers report in a week, and he still has no deal. When you look at the 2020 payroll, the Mets already have $109 million on the payroll before taking arbitration raises and a Zack Wheeler replacement into account. If deGrom waits, the team may not have money, and he is going to find himself in the position Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and others find themselves – extremely talented with few suitors driving down his price tag.

For his own sake, deGrom needs to let the Mets know he is going to hold out if they are not serious about giving him a contract extension. Hopefully, it never comes to this.

38 thoughts on “Jacob deGrom Should Hold Out”

  1. Pal88 says:

    You said anytime deGrom takes the mound he’s taking a chance….that argument can also be made for not signing a pitcher to long term deals..you can’t have both ways…
    Personally, I would try my best to sign Jake to a long term deal and take my chances..insurance anyone?

    1. metsdaddy says:

      This piece was written from the perspective of what deGrom should do. If it was on the perspective of what the Mets should do, that would be a relevant point.

  2. metsdaddy says:

    His agent who is now the GM did

  3. Horace Fury says:

    You suggest that, absent an extension, deGrom inform the team that he will not pitch in 2019. What mechanism exists for a pitcher to decide he will not pitch?

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Having his agent tell the team he’s holding out

  4. Rich says:

    so what stops anybody who is two years from free agency from holding out. Wouldn’t that be a violation of the CBA. Just because I say I’ll give you a new deal doesn’t mean you’re going to like the numbers. He has no power till he’s a free agent ..its that simple

    1. metsdaddy says:

      It’s not true he has no power. He has an immense amount of power because the Mets need him to contend. Without him, they’re doing with Vargas as the fourth starters and a starter with a 5.00+ ERA.

      1. Rich says:

        But again…Doesn’t it go against the CBA…and what stops everyone from doing it…or can an owner after agreeing to an arb contract say…sign this extension or we will lock just you out

        1. Rich says:

          Has it ever happened before

          1. metsdaddy says:

            I can’t remember the last time it’s happened. Then again, I know of no instance where a player was promised by his agent he’d do all he could do to get him an extension only to switch sides and not give it to him.

        2. metsdaddy says:

          The CBA does not expressly forbid it. At most, a team could put him on the restricted list. If he’s there, he accrues no service time.

          That also means the team can’t play the player until he’s taken off the list. For the Mets, that means they lose their ace.

          As for an owner, they can’t lock you out. Instead, they can just release you, and depending on when you’re released they owe the player anywhere from nothing to a fraction of the salary due.

  5. Rich says:

    Say if he does hold out…does his service time stop ??

    1. metsdaddy says:

      If he’s on the restricted list, yes

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