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Jacob deGrom and the New York Mets’ Offseason of Uncertainty

The Mets’ offseason will center around Jacob deGrom, but whether the ace returns to Queens ultimately isn’t their decision.

If you thought the New York Mets‘ Wild Card exit was bad, always remember that things can get worse.

They seemed to do everything right in 2022. The Mets rocked their vintage black jerseys on Friday nights, unveiled a Tom Seaver statue outside Citi Field, reintroduced Old Timer’s Day, and heck, they even retired Willie Mays’s number.

There was a joyous vibe among the fanbase. Perhaps a new chapter to be celebrated, especially after the Wilpons sold the team to hedge fund manager Steve Cohen in Jan. 2021.

With a full year under his belt, Cohen could finally do things his way. So naturally, he went out and signed veteran ace Max Scherzer to a three-year, $130 million deal, which set a record for the highest average annual value of any contract in MLB history ($43.3 million).

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In total, Cohen and the Mets spent a league-high $313.7 million (with taxes) to field a darn good baseball team. Or at least good enough to win 101 games, the second-most in franchise history after they won 108 in 1986 (also when they last won the World Series).

And yet, it still wasn’t enough to win the NL East nor to qualify for the Division Series after they lost two of three in MLB’s new Wild Card round. If you’ve watched the Mets over the years or were raised by elders who were Mets fans, then you’d have tempered your expectations way before disaster hit. 

The winning was real and it was fun for the fanbase. At least until September. 

They flew Timmy Trumpet from Australia to Queens for a couple games in late August. Fans went berserk as the Mets boasted their best attendance numbers in six years.

But as a longtime Mets fan would tell you: Cool your jets. Just ask Jerry Seinfeld, who knew damn well that bringing in Timmy Trumpet was just another bad omen for a franchise known for disappointment.

When Timmy Trumpet came in, the Mets’ 10-game lead on the Braves had already shrunk to three. By the time Jerry commented, it was all tied up. 

Weeks later, a season filled with triumph and winning had come to an end in precisely the most Mets way possible — a 6-0 elimination game loss at the hands of the San Diego Padres.

Ah, sure… “There’s always next year,” right? Not so fast. Mets ace (and face) Jacob deGrom, seemingly disgusted, was non-committal in regard to his future with the organization.

You wanna talk about the misery of being a Mets fan? deGrom leaving would be the cherry on top.

The deGrom Dilemma

Following the Mets’ Wild Card exit, deGrom was asked if he believes he’ll be back with the Mets. He said: “I have no clue.”

Uh oh.

In 2019, deGrom signed a five-year, $137.5 million contract (all guaranteed) with the Mets, including a $10 million signing bonus and an annual average salary of $27.5 million.

He has a choice to opt out of his player option and become a free agent. Or he can opt in and make $30.5 million next season. However, at this stage of his career, it appears that deGrom wants more than money.

The 34-year-old has earned roughly $73 million through his nine-year career. He’s won two Cy Young awards, earned four All-Star bids, won NL Rookie of the Year, and took the ERA title back in 2018.

His tenure in New York has been nothing short of spectacular, but it’s also been frustrating because his team hasn’t backed his stellar play.

The Mets have only made it past the NLDS once since deGrom’s rookie season in 2014. And there’s been no continuity as Buck Showalter is the team’s fourth different manager during that span. deGrom hasn’t won more than 11 games in a season since 2017 despite posing a 2.42 ERA during those five seasons.

Simply put, he hasn’t had enough run support to flex his guns in big-time games. Perennial Cy Young Award contenders do not have these issues. Just take a look for yourself at other elite pitchers over the last half-decade.

PitcherStartsWinsERAK/9
Gerritt Cole140713.0012.41
Max Scherzer125602.6611.97
Justin Verlander97562.3311.39
Clayton Kershaw108532.839.57
Jacob deGrom102372.0512.22

Who can blame him for being frustrated? Scherzer, Verlander, and Kershaw each have at least one World Series ring, and Cole is currently chasing his first with the Yankees, who, by the way, are still playing. Meanwhile, deGrom has none, nada, zip, while he vacations early once again.

There’s no question the Mets want him back for obvious reasons, but it’s no longer in their hands.

“We love Jacob, and I think he’s the best pitcher in baseball,” Cohen told the NY Post in August. “We’ll do whatever we can to make sure he stays. But it’s his decision, not ours.” 

That last part is key: it’s his decision. And his decision might not be about the Mets or what money they can offer him. At this stage of his career, he’ll be able to make the same — if not more — elsewhere, with a virtual guarantee that he’ll pitching in the postseason.

And he’s not the only one the Mets need to worry about keeping in Queens…

Mets’ Free Agents

Edwin Diaz (UFA): The closer signed a one-year, $10.2 million deal in 2021 on a prove-it contract. He did just that, finishing the year with 118 strikeouts (the most for any closer) and a 1.31 ERA in 61 games.

Brandon Nimmo (UFA): The lefty slugger signed a one-year, $7 million contract last offseason and became an integral bat at the top of the lineup. He finished with a .274 batting average while leading the league in triples (7).

Taijuan Walker (Player Option): The RHP signed a three-year, $23 million contract with the Mets in 2021. He pieced together the best season of his 10-year career, finishing 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA.

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