Long-anticipated contract talks between the Mets and star right-hander Jacob deGrom have yet to get underway, though indications are that the sides will explore a new deal in camp. According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, the sides will need to work quickly if they are to reach agreement, as deGrom has informed the team he will not negotiate during the season.
This news means that the Mets and deGrom have only about six weeks to hammer out the details of what promises to be a monster new contract, if one is to be reached at all. While it’s common for extensions to be announced during camp, it seems in this case that deGrom and his agents at CAA had anticipated much more background dialogue in the months between the Winter Meetings (when they met with Mets officials) and Spring Training.
To be sure, there’s no mandate that the sides reach agreement. They already have agreed to a $17MM arbitration salary for 2019, which includes a record-setting raise befitting deGrom’s historically notable 2018 season. And with deGrom under team control for one more season, there’d still be time to negotiate in the future.
Getting something done now, however, may be the Mets’ best chance to secure deGrom’s future services at a relatively palatable rate. Otherwise, the 30-year-old could decide to take on the risk of health or performance decline with hopes of eventually striking it rich in free agency. His relatively advanced age is a factor, to be sure, but to this point deGrom has been a workhorse and he projects to enter the open market in advance of his age-33 season. If his ensuing two campaigns are anything like the one he just wrapped up, he’ll have no trouble commanding big numbers on the open market. That said, deGrom is plainly interested in capitalizing on his 2018 excellence, and is also surely aware of the risks that come with pitching through two full MLB seasons.
There are some other considerations here. Puma notes, as Andy Martino of SNY.tv has suggested previously, that deGrom’s current agent — Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen’s former partner Jeff Berry — has suggested that players have on-field recourse to utilize against their employers to gain leverage in an increasingly unfriendly market setting. Specifically, he proposed that pitchers self-impose workload limits if they aren’t protected by long-term agreements. That path — sure to be highly controversial if implemented — seems to be on the table here. Public perception would be an important consideration in how that would play out, and also colors the present talks. The Mets had given fans (as well as deGrom) reason to believe that they’d make a big push to lock up the reigning NL Cy Young winner. Now, the onus seems to be on the organization to come forward with a significant offer.