Mets ace Jacob deGrom was named one of three finalists for the National League Cy Young Award on Monday evening by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
If deGrom wins the Cy Young Award next week, it would up the ante for what likely would make him among the highest-paid Mets when contract talks get underway for next season.
Yoenis Cespedes, whose status for next season is uncertain after double-heel surgery, will earn $29 million in 2019..
Recently retired David Wright is still on the books for $15 million and Jay Bruce will earn $14 million in the second year of his three-year, $39-million contract.
An agent who represents MLB players estimates deGrom in the $14-million range for a one-year deal or, if the Mets go long term, a seven-year deal in the vicinity of $190 million. If deGrom holds out for free agency and continues to put up solid numbers, the agent sees him gaining a Max Scherzer-like offer of seven years at $210 million.
DeGrom, who will turn 31 in June, is 55-41 with a 2.67 ERA in five seasons with the Mets. He avoided salary arbitration in 2018 by agreeing to a one-year deal for $7.4 million. He has been receptive to taking a long-term deal, but former general manager Sandy Alderson reportedly never started a serious dialogue. DeGrom is not eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season. But what would it say to deGrom — and the fanbase — if the Mets do not commit long term after such a spectacular season?
DeGrom again is eligible for arbitration, and this time it would be coming off a historic season. He set a single-season record with 24 consecutive quality starts. He was 10-9, but his win-loss record did not tell the story. In 32 starts, covering 217 innings, he had an ERA of 1.70.
Since 1969, the only lower ERAs belonged to former Met Dwight Gooden (1.53) in 1985, the Braves' Greg Maddux in 1994 (1.56), and 1995 (1.63) and the Dodgers' Zack Greinke (1.66) in 2015. Greinke parlayed that season into a six-year, $206.5 million free-agent deal with the Diamondbacks.
Brodie Van Wagenen was deGrom’s agent until last week when he became the Mets' new GM. He still sounded like deGrom’s representative during his introductory news conference a week ago.
"Jacob deGrom clearly has established himself as the best pitcher in baseball," Van Wagenen said. "You want to try and identify the best players and you want to keep them for as long as possible. And if our vision and direction doesn’t intend to include a long sustainable winning team, then you have to consider moving players. But make no mistake, I believe Jacob deGrom is an incredible talent and I hope to keep him for a long time."
That’s music to a player's — and agent's — ears and is not necessarily in the general manager's handbook. Words, as well as statistics, come into play if the sides reach what can become a contentious salary arbitration hearing. And it doesn't matter if Van Wagenen is being recused from negotiations with deGrom. DeGrom’s new handlers at CAA surely have documented Van Wagenen's position on the pitcher.
Van Wagenen actually was doubling down on what he already said about deGrom at the All-Star break in what appeared to be a calculated move to get the Mets off the schneid on an extension.
“Jacob has expressed interest directly to them about being part of a long-term future and a long-term plan,” Van Wagenen said at that time. “They have expressed some interest in that same level of commitment. If that’s not their interest, then Jacob understands that this is an environment where they may be better off moving him to accomplish their long-term goal.”
DeGrom, knowing what the agent had planned to say, added, “I’ve really enjoyed my time here. As I have said before, I would love to keep playing here. I would love to play here for my whole career. I think it’s just kind of deciding what we see as the future. It’s just something that is kind of in the Mets’ control and kind of out of mine.”
David Price, now with the Red Sox, set the record for the highest amount awarded to an arbitration-eligible pitcher when he agreed to a one-year deal for $19.75 million with the Detroit Tigers for the 2015 season. He went 15-12 the year before with the Rays and Tigers. Price already had won the Cy Young and was a four-time All-Star.
"I don’t think he gets to that [Price] number,’’ the current player agent said Monday. “Looking at it quick, deGrom is deficient in 200-plus innings pitched in any season [Price 4 times, deGrom twice], All-Star appearances [Price 4, deGrom 2]. Also, Price has led the league in complete games and starts and has a 20-win season. While deGrom has Rookie of the Year and Cy Young votes in two years, Price also had a Cy Young [in 2012] and also had some MVP votes.
"Basically, the biggest distinguishing factor for deGrom from Price is the injury history of deGrom, that keeps down his arbitration number. If I had to guess, a closer number will be in the $14-million range, possibly even lower. DeGrom is arbitration eligible again after 2019. Could he [surpass Price] then? Maybe yes, but definitely not this year.’’