With how free agency has transpired the past few years, we have seen an increasing number of players opt to sign contract extensions with their current teams rather than test free agency. This meant one of the top players in the upcoming free agent class, Nolan Arenado, has opted to remain with the Rockies until 2025 effectively making him a Rockie for life.
While we can argue the ramifications free agency will have on labor discussions and whether there will be a strike or lock out, the extension which arguably emanated is a positive for Rockies fans. They will now get to see a player they love continue putting up MVP caliber numbers and continue to make his case for the Hall of Fame. Being able to continue to root for players you love and have watched play for your team since they have been called up to the majors is a good thing for baseball.
Certainly, we saw that on display when David Wright played his last ever baseball game. On September 29, the 63-96 Marlins played a game against the 75-85 Mets. The starting pitchers were Trevor Richards and Steven Matz. In a vacuum, there would be no reason to go to this game. Still, 43, 928 Mets fans would make their way to Citi Field to say good-bye to a beloved player.
Yes, you can raise how Wright’s extension didn’t work out exactly how everyone planned. His injuries, especially his spinal stenosis, meant Wright did not have the Hall of Fame career many believed he was going to have. Towards the end of the deal, the Mets refusal to move on despite medical evidence to the contrary may have stood in the way from the Mets returning to the World Series after the 2015 season. In the end, none of that mattered as fans rushed to buy tickets and give their emotional farewell to their Captain.
If Wright were to leave and finish his career elsewhere, the emotion directed towards him would not have been the same. It would have existed, but certainly not to the same extent. Having a player like Wright creates that emotional connection between fans, player, and even the team.
We see that happening elsewhere in baseball. There is Joey Votto in Cincinnati, Freddie Freeman in Atlanta, Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles. These are the players who have stayed with their teams. They’re loved not just because they’re great players, but also because they stayed.
There are various reasons why players stay, and those reasons may or may not include how teams are handling free agency. It doesn’t really matter why the players stay. To fans, it matters that the players stay.
That is the issue facing much of baseball now. The Angels have a decision to make on Mike Trout. The Giants have a decision to make with Madison Bumgarner. The Red Sox have the same decision with Mookie Betts. As for the Mets, they’re going to have to make these decisions with respect to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Michael Conforto in relatively short order.
For the Mets, the player the Mets sign to an extension will likely become a beloved Met, more so than they are now. Ultimately, it won’t matter if things don’t pan out like everyone hopes it would. Instead, when all is said and done, we will have the memories of the 2015 season (and hopefully other postseason runs), the All-Stars, and the awards. We will have a reason to pour into Citi Field in our jerseys and say another emotional good-bye to a Mets great, a player we adored for years.
And that right there is why extensions are great for the game.
This offseason, the Mets have begun hiring some former fan favorites as special advisors to Brodie Van Wagenen. David Wright was the first with the team recently hiring Al Leiter and John Franco. We have also seen the team swap Nelson Figueroa with Todd Zeile for the postgame. In addition to those moves, Mike Piazza made his annual stop at Spring Training.
Seeing how the Mets are focusing more on their history, and recent history at that, you wonder who exactly the team will bring back next. We answer that question in our latest roundtable:
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
I want to see Justin Turner come back and play third base.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
My list of ex-Mets I’d welcome back in some capacity is too numerous to detail. I love the idea that these guys are forever part of the family as applicable.
Tim Ryder (MMO)
I’d like to see Carlos Delgado back representing the Mets in some capacity. His dedication to his craft (remember that notebook he wrote in after every at-bat?) would play well in this young-ish clubhouse, as well as through the organization.
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
Does Jarred Kelenic count?
Really though, this is more of an overall thought than a concrete idea, but Billy Wagner is one of the least-recognized greats in baseball history. By pretty much any measure he’s the second best modern-style closer of all time, and he’s already pretty much forgotten. I’m not sure the Mets should be the ones to honor him, but someone needs to.
Previously, I opined how Johan Santana could be a real difference maker in the organization if he were able to teach pitchers his changeup much in the same way he once did with Jacob deGrom. However, from a pure standpoint of wanting to bring a player back into the fold, I would like to see Carlos Beltran return to the Mets.
As it stands, Beltran is going to be in a position where he can choose a Royals, Mets, or a blank cap when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. When you’re the Mets, and you only have two Hall of Famers in Tom Seaver and Piazza, and Seaver is no longer making public appearances, it would see a team should do all they can do to bring one of those Hall of Famers back to Queens.
Once again, I appreciate each of these writers taking their time to contribute to these roundtables, and I hope each person who reads this takes the time to visit the other writers sites to see their excellent work.
During this offseason, the Mets have certainly made splashes hiring David Wright, John Franco, Al Leiter, and now Jessica Mendoza in a player development role for the organization. These are all intelligent baseball people, who if utilized properly, can have a profound impact upon the Mets organization.
Seeing how three of these hires were popular Mets players, the team should consider doing the same and bringing back Johan Santana.
There are plenty of superficial reasons why the Mets should bring Santana back to New York. He is the only pitcher in Mets history to pitch a no-hitter. His 2008 season was great, and he would pitch the last great game seen at Shea Stadium. To this day, he remains popular with the fanbase. All that said, the real reason the Mets should bring back Santana is his change-up.
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 29, 2017
Santana’s changeup was a truly great pitch. It was a pitch he used to win two Cy Young awards in what was a borderline Hall of Fame career. It was a pitch which earned him a massive contract with the Mets. It was the final pitch he threw to strike out David Freese to end his no-hitter. It was the pitch he taught to Jacob deGrom, which forever changed the trajectory of deGrom’s career.
Back in 2011, deGrom was rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery, and Santana was rehabilitating from shoulder surgery. As the two worked at the team’s rehabilitation facility in Port St. Lucie, their paths would cross. As reported by the New York Times, Santana would teach deGrom the pitch that made Santana a Cy Young award winner and would one day make help make deGrom one as well:
[W]hile doing his rehabilitation work at the Mets’ rehabilitation facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., deGrom fell into conversation with Johan Santana, the Mets’ injured ace. Santana proceeded to teach deGrom his famous changeup, how to grip the ball, how it should look the same as a fastball coming out of his hand. Santana told him to practice throwing at 180 feet. If he threw it correctly, the ball would fall well short.
As noted by the Fangraphs, deGrom’s changeup was the second most valuable changeup in all of baseball last year making it his best pitch last year. According to Brooks Baseball, opposing batters hit just .139 off of his changeup. The pitch is a large reason why deGrom was second in the league in getting batters to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone, and why he had the fifth most swings and misses against him.
Much of what deGrom accomplished began when he was rehabbing at the same time as Santana. If the Mets were wise, they would bring back Santana to have a profound impact on someone else’s career. He may help Corey Oswalt or Chris Flexen go to that next level. It’s possible David Peterson, Anthony Kay, and Thomas Szapucki each take a huge step forward in their development.
Perhaps, there is some pitching prospect who is not well known at this time who could learn Santana’s changeup and have his career take off. After all, that’s what happened to converted shortstop and former ninth round pick Jacob deGrom.
Heading into Spring Training, the Mets have continuously promised to carry the best 25 players on their roster regardless of any service time issues. Considering prevailing wisdom, and the Mets adding plenty of first base depth with Todd Frazier, J.D. Davis, Dominic Smith, and even Robinson Cano playing first, you wondered if it was going to be mere lip service so as to avoid a grievance.
Jed Lowrie has a lingering knee issue. Should he be unable to go on Opening Day, Frazier is going to be the team’s third baseman. If he’s at third, the path for Alonso has become much clearer. With the way Alonso has begun Spring Training tearing the cover off the ball, the Mets hands may be forced in putting him on the Opening Day roster.
Pete Alonso my GOODNESS pic.twitter.com/RO6IiLdhot
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) February 23, 2019
Still, you have to question the Mets wisdom in doing that. If Alonso is on the Opening Day roster, he’s likely going to be on the roster for the full season. If that is the case, the Mets would be just giving away one year of control over Alonso, and that would be at a time when he is in his prime when he would be at his most expensive.
Seeing how the Jacob deGrom extension discussions are transpiring, the Mets should not be flippant about one year of control over a player. Remember, Brodie Van Wagenen was deGrom’s agent putting him in the unique position of knowing exactly the bare minimum of what deGrom would want in an extension. Even with Van Wagenen having that important inside information, the Mets still could not handle extension discussions without it being a distraction entering Spring Training.
But it’s not just the Mets. Every team values that year of control. It’s why the Cubs held back Kris Bryant in the beginning of the 2015 season. We will see the same this year with players like Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. Smart and well run teams see that year as a real asset. If you’re a smart team, and you want that player on your Opening Day roster, you strike a deal.
That’s what the Phillies did with Scott Kingery. Before he played even one MLB game, the Phillies signed him to a six year $24 million contract with three succeeding team options. The carrot was Kingery making more than the league minimum over the first few years, and it provided him some certainty going forward.
If the Mets truly want Alonso on the Opening Day roster, they have to strike a Kingery type of deal with him. That doesn’t mean the Kingery salary is something that should be the framework for an Alonso deal, nor does it mean Alonso would be willing to entertain a discussion. Still, the Mets dangling the carrot of being the Opening Day first baseman and not giving someone like Dom a chance could be enough to bring Alonso to the table.
Fact is, if you’re not pushing for this, the Mets aren’t pursuing every avenue to make the 2019 team better, nor are they looking to create some cost certainty for this club. At the end of the day, if the Mets truly want Alonso on the Opening Day roster, they need to push for a Kingery extension now. Absent that, they should be telling Alonso to find an apartment in Syracuse for at least a few weeks because that’s what smart teams do with players they view as the cornerstone of their franchise.
For the first time since 2004, David Wright is not in Spring Training with an eye towards being the Mets third baseman. Sadly, that went by the wayside when he played his last few games as a member of the Mets last year. Since that time, Wright has joined the front office, and he has not been the typical fixture in camp. Surely, the players notice it, especially Noah Syndergaard at lunch time.
But while people may feel it, there does seem to be a level of business as usual. After all, Robinson Cano has Wright’s old locker, and the third base position is a battle of sorts between Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie. Really, there is a lot going on right now. With all that is going on, there is a question about how much you have noticed Wright’s absence.
There’s definitely a different vibe at camp this year. Is it because David Wright isn’t there? Or is it because there’s a new order? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. I feel like Wright’s there in spirit, and his presence is irreplaceable. But I also think he’s left behind an example for everyone in the room to follow going forward, it feels like a new chapter has begun with the Mets, for better or for worse.
Pete McCarthy (OABT)
It’s hard to say his absence is felt when he has often been injured and rehabbing the last few seasons. Last September was truly special and showed all that Wright gave to the franchise both on and off the field. Hopeful that a player or players can truly ascend to a leadership role now that he is retired and there is no hope of the Captain making a grand return.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
That’s probably a better question to ask somebody on the team, since they know the difference. For me, I’m of the mind of “keep moving forward”, and that we care too much about nostalgia in general as a society. (I don’t care which shows premiered 27 years ago today so stop putting it in my Facebook timeline!!!) So while I think of David Wright fondly, I’m ready to look forward and not backward.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
The last couple of years prepared us well for our separation from David Wright as an active player. Still, he was such a constant for so long. I always assumed the earliest-reporting employee to St. Lucie every spring was greeted by David bouncing a ball against a wall, waiting for somebody to unlock the door to the facility.
Given his role as a special advisor, I imagine we’ll see him around in some capacity, which is comforting. May he find the new work rewarding and may fans never stop appreciating all he gave this franchise.
Tim Ryder (MMO)
To be honest, no. In my head I’ve already turned that page. This roster is full of talented guys, some of whom learned how to conduct themselves as major leaguers from David Wright. I have a feeling his impact on this clubhouse will continue to manifest itself over the next few seasons. Will I miss him on the field? Always.
Bre S (That Mets Chick)
Have I felt Wright’s absence from the team during spring training? I can’t say I have. That is a better question to ask the players. I can see from videos and players quotes that there is a different and fresh vibe from this team. Wright is no longer on the field with them being their leader and caption. Other players like Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, and Brandon Nimmo all know they need to step up in 2019. Whether Mets fans like it or not, the team must move on without Wright being in the clubhouse everyday. This reminds me of 2005. Mike Piazza‘s final season with the Mets. Going into 2006, bright and young new faces emerged the voices and leaders for the Mets: David Wright and Jose Reyes. Similar to 2006, a new leader for the Mets will emerge in 2019 and I can’t wait to see who that is.
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
I’ll notice the hole at third base once games start. Third base the last few years has almost been defined by “waiting for David Wright,” so now that David isn’t coming back anymore I expect the third-base position to have a completely different dynamic. We have Frazier, who was so-so last year; Lowrie, who can really hit…but may already be hurt? Jeff McNeil, who can also really hit but is unproven and might also be an outfielder; J.D. Davis, who seems like a complete mystery…David Wright’s absence, to me, is going to make itself felt most in the fact that when we go through third base options, there won’t be that pause we used to make, and no one will say, “well, this is just the backup plan until Wright comes back.”
Surprisingly, I have not noticed Wright’s absence. There are a number of reasons why with Pete Alonso fighting for a first base job, deGrom still going without an extension, and the fact there are still big name free agents on the board like Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel. There is a lot of noise in baseball right now, and it is overshadowing Wright not being a part of the team anymore.
I anticipate I will first feel his absence on Opening Day when Howie Rose is calling out the players’ names. His name will be a noticeable omission. If the Mets are fighting for a postseason spot, I know I will certainly notice Wright’s absence, and I will likely bemoan who Wright is not going to get a chance to get his World Series ring.
While I have not quite noticed Wright’s absence, I do notice the good work from the fine people who contribute to this roundtable. Hopefully, you notice it as well, and you take the time to read their excellent work.
In his press conference on Thursday, Mets ace Jacob deGrom said if the Mets were not going to extend him he would have to confer with his agents about whether he should have a self imposed innings restriction in 2019. It should be noted deGrom’s new agent, Jeff Barry, has been urging pitchers to impose innings restrictions upon their teams in response to how teams have handled the free agent market the past few seasons.
While many believe it may never come to this, it is certainly possible deGrom or his agents may attempt to impose an innings restriction upon the team. As we saw with Matt Harvey in 2015, drama would ensue should there be another incident. The question for Mets fans in 2019 is whether they would support deGrom in a similar situation this season. Our Mets Bloggers offer their opinions:
Tim Ryder (MMO)
Now THAT’S a conflict of interest. Obviously, deGrom deserves every penny he’s set to make and has every right to protect himself from injury with that type of windfall at stake. However, I want the Mets to win and having JdG on the mound as often as possible significantly improves their chances of success. I really don’t think it’s going to get that far, though.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
Agree with Tim. I don’t think it gets that far. But I whole heartedly support Jacob’s right to be pissed off.
Editor’s Note: Metstradum had an excellent article on that very topic, which you should read.
Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)
Last time I checked, Jake is getting paid 17 million dollars to throw baseballs this season. He’d better throw 200 innings with a smile on his face, and I don’t want to hear about his contract again. Yes, the Mets need to extend him, and make him a Met for life, but c’mon.
I’ll add that when he does get his deal, he should send an envelope to Wally Backman, because if it weren’t for Wally, Jake would have been used in the BP when the Mets brought him up. It probably cost him his job, but Wally called Terry and told him Jake had to be a SP and to fight hard for it.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
I expect Jacob deGrom to pitch as best he can, as often and as much as he is called on to do (which in this era is never enough as we would choose). He has been a pro’s pro for five seasons and see no reason to believe that will change because of negotiation-related posturing. His integrity seems as Cy Young-caliber as his body of work.
If he wants to preserve his arm after the Mets clinch and before the playoffs, I’d definitely support that.
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
DeGrom has certainly earned an expensive extension, and he’s a good season or two away from becoming a top five-or-so pitcher in Mets history. But shutting down in September could be a lot to ask of the Front Office and of fans if we’re in a playoff race. If we’re 20 games out on September first, then it might be in everyone’s best interests — deGrom, the FO, fans — to shut him down and save his arm. But if we’re in a spot where the standings might come down to a few games either way, I think the opposite is true: I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interests for deGrom to pack it in early. Fans will hate it, obviously, and management won’t like it either, and if deGrom goes against his team to shut himself down, you have to think it will damage relations between his agents and the Mets, and also hurt his standing going into Free Agency.
Having said all that…I don’t think he’ll shut himself down if we’re in a spot where we need him to pitch. He doesn’t seem like the type. But with the Mets…who the hell knows?
Bre S (That Mets Chick)
deGrom has earned every penny given to him. He received a raise in arbitration earning $17 million this season. I am very conflicted about this topic because I think he deserves a big pay day, but I also want him to pitch down the stretch, especially if we are in a playoff race. This reminds me another time in Mets drama history. Matt Harvey in 2015 recovering from TJS was asked by his agent, Scott Boras to limit his innings to preserve himself for the future. With all the drama and headlines late that season, he ended up pitching deep into the season and then the World Series. There are clear differences in Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom: Injuries, attitude and behavior. deGrom is a great Mets player. He is loyal to the team. I want him signed long term but its very tough to say I would want him to shut it.
While I do not like deGrom having a self imposed innings limitation, I do have to respect him doing what is best for him and his career. So long as he gives the team sufficient notification of his intent, the Mets should be able to set forth a plan where deGrom will be in a position to pitch down the stretch and into the postseason. Given what deGrom said at the press conference, the Mets should be making plans for that very scenario RIGHT NOW.
At the end of the day, if the Mets don’t plan for this contingency, and they instead try to pressure deGrom into pitching well past his innings limits, like they did with Harvey, that’s on the Mets – no matter how much they try to spin it.
That said, if deGrom doesn’t make himself available to pitch a late September game or refuses to pitch in the postseason, then he should be subjected to whatever scorn comes his way. Hopefully, no one will be in that position.
Overall, no matter what your position is on supporting deGrom, please support the writers who take their time to contribute to this roundtable. Their work is excellent, and they should receive your support.
With the Mets hiring an agent as opposed to a front office baseball executive, you knew Brodie Van Wagenen was going to have a learning curve. As such, he was going to make some bad moves, and certainly, you knew he was going to make some curious decisions. Some may inure to the Mets benefit while others may not. If these questionable decisions do work out for the Mets, then a World Series may very well be in the team’s future.
Why Isn’t Cano Playing First Base?
Robinson Cano was the big bat the Mets acquired this offseason, and the plan is for him to be a fixture in the Mets lineup. However, that is for as many games as he is able to play. To his credit, Brodie Van Wagenen has been quite vocal about the need to give Cano more days off than he is accustomed due to Cano being 36 years old.
If we harken back to 1999, Bobby Valentine did this with a 40 year old Rickey Henderson to get the last good season out of Henderson. That also led to the Mets claiming the Wild Card and going to the NLCS.
For Cano, it is not just his age, but it is also his position. Players who play up the middle play the more taxing defensive positions in baseball. That takes more of a toll on a 36 year old player. Given Jed Lowrie‘s presence on the team, you have to wonder why the team doesn’t make Lowrie the second baseman with Cano playing first.
Putting Cano at first would be putting him in a position where he would not be as subject to fatigue over the course of the season. It should also be noted with Cano already 36 years old and his signed for five more seasons, it is a position switch he will eventually have to make. If he is going to have to make the switch, why not do it now so the Mets could coax more at-bats and games from him over the course of the season?
Where Is Davis Getting His Opportunity?
With J.D. Davis‘ minor league stats, you could make the argument all he needs to succeed at the Major League level is an opportunity to play at the Major League level. Certainly, it’s a fair point to raise when someone hits .342/.406/.583 in 85 Triple-A games and .175/.248/.223 in 42 MLB games.
The problem is you’d be hard-pressed to where exactly he would get that opportunity.
He’s behind Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie at the third base depth chart. He’s behind Peter Alonso and Frazier on the first base depth chart. He’s a right-handed compliment to right-handed hitters. He’s not suited to play outfield in the majors, and even if he was, he’s buried on the outfield depth chart as well. Combine that with Lowrie and Jeff McNeil being the versatile players on the roster, and you have to wonder where he gets hit at-bats.
After you are done contemplating that, you are left to wonder why the team would trade three good prospects in Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea for him when they could’ve just as easily signed Mark Reynolds or Matt Davidson.
Was McNeil Playing LF the Original Plan?
One of the benefits of having McNeil on the roster is having a versatile player on the roster. Despite the team’s initial reluctance last year, he is someone who has received playing time at all four infield positions, and he has always trained in the outfield. To that extent, penciling him as the team’s starting left fielder, even against just right-handed pitching made a ton of sense.
That plan made even more sense when you consider Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are both capable center fielders with Juan Lagares being the best defensive center fielder in the game. Really, breaking it down, moving McNeil to left field was probably the best way to handle the Mets resources.
However, the plan to move McNeil to left field does raise some interesting questions. For example, why didn’t the team send him to winter ball to play outfield. Also, why would the team expend resources to obtain Keon Broxton only to make him a fifth outfielder? Moreover, if McNeil is your outfielder, shouldn’t the team have a better insurance option against his inability to play left field than Broxton?
What’s the Plan for Backup Catcher?
When the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Indians, they were effectively announcing Travis d’Arnaud was healthy enough to be the backup. That was called into question when Mickey Callaway said Devin Mesoraco signed with the Mets because of his relationship with Jacob deGrom.
It would seem if the Mets signed Mesoraco to catch deGrom the team now has one catcher too many. Does this mean the team is planning on moving him on the eve of Opening Day, or is Mesoraco willing to catch in the minors until the inevitable injury to d’Arnaud or Wilson Ramos. If that is the case, what impact does this have on Tomas Nido, and his future?
On the bright side, the Mets have good depth at the catcher position, but that only remains true to the extent they are keeping everyone. If they are the challenge is then to keep everyone happy and sharp, which is much easier said than done.
Where’s the Starting Pitching Depth?
With Jason Vargas struggling since the 2017 All-Star Break, you would have thought the Mets would have done more to address their pitching depth. That goes double when you consider the team traded Justin Dunn, their best starting pitching prospect, and with David Peterson and Anthony Kay being at least a couple of years away.
With the health issues facing Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, you would’ve thought the Mets would have been pressed more to add starting pitching depth. When you couple that with Van Wagenen knowing Jeff Barry councils his pitching clients to limit their innings, you would believe the Mets would have pressed to go more than four deep in the pitching rotation.
But the Mets haven’t. Not really. Their depth is essentially the same group who posted an ERA over 5.00 as MLB staters along with Hector Santiago, a pitcher now better suited to the bullpen.
When you look at this rotation the best health they had was in 2015, and that was a year the team needed 10 starting pitchers to get through the season. This team has nowhere near that type of depth.
As it turns out, more than anything, it may turn out to be the pitching depth which is the biggest key to the 2019 season. If the team is healthy, and deGrom and Syndergaard go against their agent’s advice, it is possible the team has enough pitching to get through the season. If the pitchers do impose pitching limits and there is more than one pitching injury, the team’s hopes of winning anything may be done, and that is even if the other questions are answered in the affirmative.
Yesterday, Jacob deGrom spoke to the media directly for the first time since reports of his frustration surfaced in the media. During his press conference deGrom offered some positive assurances for Mets fans telling us all he loves being a Met, and he wants to stay with the team. He also offered some reasons for concern including the fact he was frustrated and the Mets have yet to make him an offer.
Then, deGrom would drop a bit of a bombshell.
In response to a question about whether he would be willing to have a self imposed innings restriction next year, deGrom responded, “You play this game because you love it and then you have an opportunity to look out for your family and your future, so you have to see what’s right for you to do and I think that’s a discussion that’s going to have to be had with my agents.”
That’s not a yes, but it’s certainly not a no. What it was was a declaration that nothing if off the table in this negotiation, including deGrom consulting with his agents to come up with a plan to protect his arm so he can be as healthy as possible when he heads into free agency after the 2020 season.
When deGrom speaks on this matter there are three very important things to consider. First, deGrom has his own injury history. His career almost never got off the ground because he had Tommy John surgery. He would have to be shut down in a pennant race in 2016 to have ulnar transposition surgery. Just last season, he had a back issue in Spring Training, which cost him his Opening Day start, and he would hyper-extend his elbow on a swing.
Just as much as any other player, deGrom knows how the next injury can happen at any moment, and depending on the severity of the injury, it can have long lasting ramifications.
He saw those ramifications first-hand with Matt Harvey. During the 2015 season, deGrom watched on as Harvey was pressured to ignore his own agent’s advice on innings restrictions. He watched Harvey pitch against the advice of his agents, and he watched on as Harvey would be a shell of himself from 2016 until he was traded for Devin Mesoraco in May of last year.
On the topic of the agents, deGrom is represented by Jeff Barry. As has oft been cited over the past few days, Barry is the agent who has been encouraging pitchers to self impose innings restrictions in response to how owners have handled free agency. At the crux of his position is, if teams aren’t going to pay you for the wear and tear you put on your arm during your years under control, don’t allow the teams to abuse your arm for their own gain. Push back.
So, deGrom now has to process all of this and much more in deciding his next step in both negotiation and in terms of what he does should he not get an extension. At the same time, Noah Syndergaard will be making similar assessments.
Like deGrom, Syndergaard has had some scary injuries in his career including a torn oblique and last year’s hyper-extended finger. Also like deGrom, Syndergaard had a front row seat to the Harvey saga. Also, like deGrom, he is represented by Barry, who may very well be having the same discussions with Syndergaard and the team about restricting his innings in 2019.
This means how Brodie Van Wagenen handles these negotiations with deGrom could have a far-reaching impact. Not only could the Mets suddenly find themselves with deGrom limiting his innings, but they may also have to deal with Syndergaard heeding the advice of his agent and doing the same. That’s a very dicey situation for a Mets GM who has not built sufficient pitching depth to withstand his top two pitchers having innings restrictions.
Therefore, at the end of the day, the Metsask themselves if it is worth not giving deGrom what Van Wagenen, himself, told deGrom he was worth just a few short months ago when he was deGrom’s agent. Really, the Mets not stepping up to the plate here could have devastating consequences for their 2019 season.
Due to a back strain and the team wanting to be cautious with their ace, Jacob deGrom gave way to Noah Syndergaard as last year’s Opening Day starter. Unless the team’s handling of deGrom’s extension spills over into the regular season, deGrom will be the eighth Mets player drafted by the team to make an Opening Day start.
Can you name the other seven? Good luck!
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.