Brodie Van Wagenen has made several big moves this offseason, but he’ll be defined by the one he hasn’t made yet: re-signing ace Jacob deGrom.
At the same time seemingly everyone around baseball is signing a contract extension, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner remains in limbo on the last year of his contract.
New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, a year after leading the Majors with a 1.70 ERA, is set to earn $17 million in 2019 before becoming a free agent. The best pitcher in the game last season goes into this year with only the 21st-highest salary among starting pitchers. Talks between the two sides have gone nowhere, with deGrom’s self-imposed deadline of Opening Day fast approaching.
He’s not the only Met frustrated that the team hasn’t committed to him long-term yet. Noah Syndergaard said on Sunday the Mets need to make signing deGrom a top priority.
“I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth,” Syndergaard told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. “I just think they should quit all this fuss and pay the man already.”
DeGrom expressed optimism earlier this offseason that a deal with the Mets could be worked out, but that sentiment is quickly waning. In the past week fellow pitchers Justin Verlander, Chris Sale and Blake Snell have all been locked up long-term by their respective teams. DeGrom has taken notice, and he’s not happy about it.
“You see guys signing. I think I see them too. So I guess we wait,” he said on Saturday.
Brodie Van Wagenen, deGrom’s former agent who was elevated to Mets’ general manager in October, has done everything he could this offseason to turn the club into contenders in the NL East. In December he acquired second baseman Robinson Cano and All-Star closer Edwin Diaz in a trade from Seattle. He also signed former All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos in free agency. The Mets see teams in their own division, led by the Philadelphia Phillies, continue to get better. Despite the offseason moves their best bet at staying relevant in the division goes through deGrom and Syndergaard, and Van Wagenen can’t afford to have both of them angry going into the 2019 season.
Syndergaard admits the tension between deGrom and the Mets front office is even starting to penetrate into the team’s clubhouse. “If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstances would be,” he said. “But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions, I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”
The Mets open the season on Thursday in Washington, with deGrom taking the mound against Max Scherzer. Whether he’s still in New York at the start of the 2020 season is up to Van Wagenen and whether the two sides can overcome the recent hostility to get a deal done. The Mets need him more than they seem to know.