WASHINGTON — The only thing shrinking faster than Jacob deGrom’s ERA is his agent’s patience with the Mets. Brodie Van Wagenen declared Monday that if the team did not intend to sign him to an extension in the near future, he should be traded.
“Jacob has expressed interest directly to them about being part of a long-term future and a long-term plan,” Van Wagenen said at Nationals Park. “They have expressed some interest in that same level of commitment. If that’s not their interest, then Jacob understands that this an environment where they may be better off moving him to accomplish their long-term goal.”
The Mets declined comment on Van Wagenen’s statements, but the agent did say the sides spoke in the past week about deGrom’s situation. Clearly, deGrom hasn’t been affected on the field by his uncertain status, or the team’s overall futility, as he entered the All-Star break with baseball’s best ERA at 1.68 but a 5-4 record in 19 starts.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” deGrom said Monday. “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.”
For nearly three months, coinciding with the Mets’ free-fall from a 12-2 start, there has been a daily media drumbeat regarding deGrom’s fate in Flushing. The debate over what the Mets should do with him has been nonstop. The problem for deGrom’s camp, however, is that the team doesn’t really have to do anything.
The sticking point here is that deGrom is under the Mets’ control through the 2020 season, which makes him a considerable bargain — he’s earning only $7.4 million this year as one of the best pitchers in baseball. That’s no good from an agent’s perspective, but deGrom’s value as the top starter potentially available on the trade market can be exploited for leverage, however slight, with the clock ticking toward the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Van Wagenen said he’s told the Mets they “may want to consider other possibilities” if a deGrom extension is not on the horizon.
“He and I have been transparent with them about his willingness to consider a long-term commitment,” Van Wagenen said. “But if there’s not a commitment, then obviously the player would be prepared for a trade.
“If there’s not a desire to have the player, then you’d like to go to somebody that did have the desire to be committed. It’s if not A, then everybody has to be aware of B. The third alternative of just staying status quo, I don’t think benefits anyone.”
The Mets’ recent position on deGrom, as outlined by a person familiar with the situation, was to keep him and Noah Syndergaard while focusing more on potentially dealing Zack Wheeler. The team’s three-headed front office insists the Mets have no plans for a total rebuild — rather a retool for ’19 — so keeping deGrom would seem to be an integral part of that blueprint, despite the huge haul he could command by being traded.
In the meantime, deGrom has dominated without the benefit of a talented roster equal to his performance. The Mets are 8-11 in his 19 starts, and in his last 13 starts, they’ve averaged 2.77 runs.
“I don’t think he will allow this distraction over the course of these next two weeks, or over the course of the final two months of the season, to change his performance,” Van Wagenen said. “But as we go forward, it’s only natural for players to be at risk for frustration if they don’t know where they stand. That’s my key point.”
As for deGrom, who spoke from his booth at All-Star media day, he sounded sincere about wanting to remain in Flushing.
“We’ve been open to discussing long-term deals with the Mets,” deGrom said. “There’s been no numbers discussed. I’ve enjoyed my time here. In 2015, when we went to the World Series, and we were a winning baseball team, that was a lot of fun, and that’s what I want to get back to. And yes, I would love it to be here with the Mets. We’ll just have to see what happens.”