Nearly two months into the Mets’ offseason, Jacob deGrom remains the most expensive unknown.
If the Mets re-sign him, it is expected to be at a cost of $40 million-$45 million per year, a huge chunk of 2023 payroll that already is well above $200 million. If he goes elsewhere, they suddenly would have that earmarked cash available to spend elsewhere, be it on another top-of-the-rotation pitcher or to spread around to fill their many other roster holes.
But to hear general manager Billy Eppler tell it, the Mets ostensibly don’t need to wait on a deGrom decision before making other moves.
“I wouldn’t say that’s critically important,” Eppler said Thursday during a video news conference to discuss the Mets’ re-signing Edwin Diaz to a five-year, $102 million contract last month. “We’ve assessed the market and we’ve had enough dialogue to try to get a sense of what we think is going to be a reality. And so we are positioned to be able to execute other things if it makes sense and we get close enough. We don’t need one thing to happen first before other things can become a reality.”
Part of the Mets’ early-offseason homework has been laying the groundwork for deGrom alternatives. They had a Zoom meeting this week with lefthander Carlos Rodon, a source said, and reportedly recently did the same with Justin Verlander.
Rodon, who turns 30 next week, was a third overall draft pick by the White Sox in 2014 and endured years of injuries and mediocrity before breaking out the past two years with the White Sox and Giants. Verlander, who will turn 40 during spring training, returned from essentially two missed seasons because of Tommy John surgery to win the AL Cy Young Award and the World Series with the Astros in 2022.
Asked specifically for an update on the Mets’ talks with deGrom, Eppler said he has had “pretty regular dialogue on a number of fronts.”
Do the Mets have room in the budget to re-sign deGrom and centerfielder Brandon Nimmo and fill their other roster holes?
Eppler declined to say, in fear of letting other teams know anything about the Mets’ plans.
"I’m not going to comment on that or go deep on that,” he said. “I’d like to keep what available resources we have as close to the vest as possible.”
One area in which the Mets have made definitive moves: a series of role changes on the coaching staff.
Bench coach Glenn Sherlock will remain as a catching instructor (and work on game-calling/controlling the running game), with hitting coach Eric Chavez moving to bench coach and assistant hitting coach Jeremy Barnes replacing him as the hitting coach.
The impetus for those changes, according to Eppler, was actually in reverse of that order. Other teams were interested in hiring Barnes, so to keep him, the Mets promoted him. That required a bump up for Chavez — seen by some as a future manager — and a demotion for Sherlock.
Eppler credited Sherlock for taking one for the team, accepting a downgrade to keep both Barnes and Chavez on the staff in bigger jobs.
“The conversation that I had with Buck [Showalter] and then had with Eric Chavez and then had with Glenn Sherlock [was], how do we keep our talent? All of us put our heads together,” Eppler said. “It was really a lot of Glenn Sherlock. He recognized what we could do to do that. We knew we had to put Jeremy in the No. 1 hitting role to do that. We felt good enough in it. Chavey felt good about it. And Buck felt good about it. But it doesn’t happen without Glenn. He deserves that shout-out and that credit, because it was a very, very team thing to do.”