The Mets ace keeps dominating, and he’s finally got a stacked team around him. Let’s explore what this means for card collectors.
The 2021 version of Jacob deGrom is looking like the best one yet.
So far this season, the New York Mets fireballer has only allowed one earned run in 20 innings. Already baseball’s consistently hardest-throwing starter, deGrom has seen his average fastball velocity rise to 99 MPH, hitting triple digits with more than 15% of his heaters.
Not bad for a ninth-round draft pick.
As impressive as his elite velocity is his command, which rivals anyone’s in the game. JdG has led the league in strikeouts in back-to-back years while only walking roughly two batters per nine innings. That’s the kind of excellence that earns you two Cy Young Awards — and a chance for more.
While the historic particulars of his stat lines may be news to casuals, it is widely agreed that deGrom is in the truly elite tier of players in all of baseball, pitcher or otherwise. His Topps Chrome rookie card price reflects that assessment, with a PSA 10 going for around $700 these days.
Despite the somewhat steep price, a number of collectors are clearly convinced that such an investment is still a coup given its potential long-term value. But there are few factors that may give potential card investors some pause.
He’s turning 33 years old this summer, but deGrom is only in his eighth season in the bigs. For reference, star Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts (28) is also in his eighth season, while Angels icon Mike Trout (29) is playing his 11th. More time performing at a high level in the MLB means more attention and popularity, which typically go hand-in-hand with card sales. Even the biggest deGrom stans can’t ignore this.
To be fair, of course, the Mets ace has made alarmingly efficient use of his time in the Show. He boasts a laundry list of accolades, including NL Rookie of the Year, three All-Star selections, and two All-MLB First Team nods to accompany that pair of Cy Youngs.
Although he has accumulated an astounding resume in a comparatively short period of time, there are some concerns that his late start may lock him out of Cooperstown — and the lucrative card market that comes with that exclusive status. He did not notch his first MLB start until he was 26; historically, Hall of Fame nominations have been driven by largely non-negotiable statistical thresholds. It is not unheard of that a late start to a career (to say nothing of an early end) would keep even a generationally talented player out of the Hall on the traditional media ballot.
Has the incredible success of deGrom’s last three seasons has gone some ways toward putting that threat to rest? There’s an argument to be made there. If he can keep all this incredible momentum going for a few more years and add to a modest total of just 71 career wins as of this writing, he’ll get his plaque one day.
But there’s more work to be done.
Another long-term factor to consider? Jacob deGrom has seen minimal action in October. Postseason performance typically has an impact on a player’s card value — Mike Trout may be the enduring exception — but as he’s been dragged down by underachieving Mets teams over the last half-dozen seasons, deGrom has not seen a playoff game since the Amazins made their run to the World Series in 2015.
Interestingly enough, that could all change this year. The Mets have assembled what appears to be the most talented team of the deGrom era, making them a popular pick to win the contentious NL East. And as JdG fills up his shelves with more individual awards, even one dominating postseason run could be the thing that puts him into the conversation for being not only the best in the game, but a defining talent for an entire generation of baseball.
If and when that happens, we’re looking at a seismic impact on the value of his rookie cards.
As a test case, let’s consider Mookie Betts’ MVP performance in the 2020 World Series for the Dodgers. Already a perennial All-Star, that terrific run catapulted Betts’ card values, making his rookie card one of the most expensive in baseball at approximately $2,000 for his PSA 10 Topps Chrome.
An opportunity for deGrom to lead the Mets to their first World Series title since 1986 while showcasing his unparalleled fastball velocity and virtuoso skill on the mound would almost surely launch his card values toward a Betts-like trajectory.
As made clear in previous years, deGrom cannot take the Mets to the Fall Classic alone. This year’s team still has to prove it truly has the bats to give their ace a chance to shine in the playoffs at long last. But in the meantime, trading card investors may want to consider adding a deGrom rookie card to their collections now so that they’ll be perfectly positioned to revel along with legions of Mets fans if and when history is made in Queens.