PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The clock is ticking for Jacob deGrom and the Mets to agree to a contract extension — his self-imposed deadline of Opening Day is just five weeks away — but certain visitors to Mets camp this week make the situation ripe for progress.
DeGrom’s agents, Jeff Berry and Matt Ricatto of CAA, are in Port St. Lucie visiting their many Mets clients, an expected check-in that general manager Brodie Van Wagenen alluded to last week while discussing deGrom’s contract status.
Mets decision-makers and deGrom’s representatives indeed will get together while the latter are in town, a source said Thursday.
“We know the timeline we’re working with,” Van Wagenen said Thursday.
It’s worth noting that agents routinely visit spring training camps. When he represented deGrom and others before joining the Mets, Van Wagenen, for example, used to visit all 30 camps in about 20 days, he said. Agents come through, get dinner with their clients and touch base with team executives.
Todd Frazier and Tim Tebow have gotten together with their CAA reps this week, and other Mets/CAA players include Noah Syndergaard, Jason Vargas and Jed Lowrie.
But with deGrom — and both sides’ publicly stated desire to work on a long-term deal and the brightened spotlight that ensues — it’s a bit more noteworthy.
As of last week, deGrom said the team had not made an offer and that he would like to be a Met beyond the next two seasons of team control, “but that’s kind of up to them.”
DeGrom, for his part, has looked like his usual smiley self during workouts. On Thursday morning, as he watched Steven Matz throw live batting practice, he chatted and laughed with Van Wagenen and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon.
DeGrom, 30, will make $17 million in 2019. The raise of $9.6 million from his 2018 salary is the largest ever for an arbitration-eligible player. Van Wagenen hopes that gesture generated some good will, but that hasn’t manifested itself in anything substantial so far.
With deGrom under team control through 2020, the Mets aren’t facing any sort of final deadline for these negotiations. To limit distractions, deGrom informed the Mets that he wants to get a deal done or hit pause by the time the regular season starts. Next offseason, however, would be another story.
So what’s the hurry? Clarity, Van Wagenen said last week.
“Sometimes, if everyone feels like their interests are aligned, then this is a conversation we don’t have to have going forward,” Van Wagenen said. “At the same point, if the interests aren’t aligned, at least we know where each other stands. And that’s productive toward future interaction.”
Signing deGrom — and awarding him a massive payday — also would help back up Van Wagenen’s player-first philosophy, which has gone over well in the clubhouse. Several Mets noted in recent days that Van Wagenen has stressed his desire to make sure players have the resources necessary to succeed.
That connects to a theme Van Wagenen touched on during his first day as Mets GM: Rewarding good players for being good has benefits aside from money. Of all the Mets, deGrom — a home-grown, award-winning star and fan favorite — is a strong choice to turn that into more than just talk.
“Provide our players with the support and resources they need to succeed,” Van Wagenen said in October. “When they do, recognize their performances and reward their performances.
“This mindset creates a positive culture and positive work environment. As is true in all organizations, good culture yields the best results and increases the probability for success.”