TODAY, 10:16am: Talking to reporters today, deGrom said “it would be really cool” to be with the Mets for his entire career, but “the plan is to exercise” his opt-out clause after the season “and be in constant contact in the offseason with the Mets and Steve Cohen and the front office.”
YESTERDAY, 6:52pm: Approximately eight months from now, Jacob deGrom can opt out of the remainder of his contract and become a free agent. Despite that, the Mets aren’t seriously thinking about extending him for now, reports Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
Team owner Steve Cohen said they won’t be engaging in extension talks until “the appropriate time,” as quoted by DiComo. “We’re going to play the season and then we’ll figure that out, and Jake will do what he does,” Cohen said. “We love Jake, and we’ll figure it out at some point.”
Despite already being one of the best pitchers in baseball over the previous seven seasons, deGrom seemed to be taking his game to new heights last year. Through 15 starts and 92 innings, deGrom had a miniscule ERA of 1.08, along with comical strikeout and walk rates of 45.1% and 3.4%, producing an incredible 4.9 fWAR in that time. Unfortunately, injuries put him on the shelf and he didn’t make a start after July 7th.
That duality is surely what’s giving the club some hesitation about taking on the added risk of another extension. If deGrom were to undergo another injured-marred campaign, he could potentially decide not to opt out of his contract, leaving the Mets on the hook for $34.5MM in 2023. Under this scenario, the club could wait until the end of that year and decide whether or not to exercise a $34.5MM club option for 2024. This option doesn’t appear to have a buyout, making the wait-and-see path a low-risk option for the club.
deGrom was something of a late bloomer, not making his debut until just before his 26th birthday. That means that, despite only pitching in eight MLB seasons, he will turn 34 in June. Under the scenario where deGrom doesn’t opt out, the club could already control him through his age-36 season. However, there’s also the alternate scenario where deGrom does opt out and leaves the club in November. Since he was producing at an elite level as recently as a year ago, it’s still entirely possible that he could opt out, hit the open market and easily beat the money still owed to him. After all, deGrom’s new teammate Max Scherzer just signed a record-setting $130MM deal with an AAV of $43.33 at the age of 37. deGrom still has the potential to hit the open market three years younger than that.
At this early stage of spring, the early reports indicate that everything seems to be okay with deGrom health-wise, as general manager Billy Eppler found no cause for concern when speaking to the training and coaching staff. Regardless, it seems like the preference of the club is to wait and see before taking on that additional risk. Even if deGrom does stay healthy and opts out, the club has certainly not been shy about spending in recent years, making it entirely possible that the worst-case scenario is they just have keep spending to keep deGrom around.