Mets Extension Talks Should Go Beyond deGrom
With Jacob deGrom putting an Opening Day deadline for a potential contract extension, the team’s immediate focus is going to be locking him up to the point where he could be a Met for life. Of course, the immediacy of the talks are not just because deGrom set a deadline, it is also because deGrom will be a free agent after the 2020 season.
Looking at the rotation, deGrom is not the only pitcher who is fast approaching free agency. Zack Wheeler will be a free agent after the 2019 season. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will be free agents after the 2021 season much like Aaron Nola who just signed a four year $45 million contract extension with the Phillies.
The Nola deal covers the rest of the years he is under team control with a team option for Nola’s first year of free agency. The 2023 team option is worth $16 million.
Looking at Nola, it is important to note he finished third in the Cy Young voting behind deGrom, who settled for $17 million in his third year of arbitration. This means if Nola continues pitching like he did last year, the Phillies will have Nola on a real discount in 2023 thereby freeing the team up to allocate their resources in other areas to improve their ballclub.
Seeing how the market has been relatively set by Nola’s extension coupled with the Mets need for some cost certainty, it would behoove the Mets to pursue extensions with their own starting pitchers. Another important consideration here is Syndergaard and Matz may be at their lowest value.
Syndergaard has been limited to 32 starts over the past two years due to an oblique and then a finger injury. Those injuries have stood in the way of him putting up another great season like he had in 2016. With health and an improved training regiment, which Syndergaard appears to be pursuing, we could see Syndergaard return to the pitcher he was in 2016. Perhaps, he will be even better.
Matz has landed on the disabled list in all four of his Major League seasons, but last year he still made a breakthrough in his career making 30 starts for the first time in his career. During his career, the Mets have seen glimpses from him including his having a 2.51 ERA, 1.021 WHIP, and a 10.9 K/9 in six September starts.
Certainly, the Mets could use the Nola extension as a framework for a possible Syndergaard and Matz extension. You could argue Syndergaard is better than Nola making him worth more money. Certainly, Matz has not had Nola’s success, and with that in mind, the Mets could possibly sign him for even less money.
In short order, the Mets could keep three-fifths of their incredible starting rotation together. This should insulate them from potentially losing Wheeler in free agency. Wheeler leaving could be abated by one of David Peterson or Anthony Kay stepping up this season. Of course, the Mets could sign Wheeler to his own extension.
Perhaps, the Mets and Wheeler could look to Nathan Eovaldi‘s four year $68 million contract as a starting point. After all, both pitchers were strong armed right-handed pitchers who have had injury issues and were roughly league average pitchers until the second half of last year. Wheeler would have the much better second half, but Eovaldi would have a great postseason.
Looking across baseball, increasingly more players are interested in contract extensions. So far this season, we have seen both Nola and Whit Merrifield sign extensions. We may see Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado do the same. It is now time for the Mets to do the same with as many pieces of their rotation as they can.