If it makes it any easier, maybe this will help put Jacob deGrom’s defection to the Rangers in perspective: Over the past two seasons, the two-time Cy Young Award winner appeared in 8% of the Mets’ games.
That’s like a breakup with your ex after seeing that person a little more than twice a month for a couple of years.
Let’s face it. Things weren’t the same. For both sides.
Sure, there were some incredible moments. Amazing memories. You’ll always have that exhilarating World Series run in 2015.
But in the end, deGrom seemingly didn’t want the Mets anymore, and we’ll never know how much money would have made him think differently about finishing his career in Flushing. Even if Steve Cohen chose to match the Rangers’ insane five-year, $185 million offer — it didn’t matter that he wasn’t given the chance — who’s to say deGrom would have decided to remain with the Mets anyway?
And that’s why it’s better this way. Let deGrom’s double-dealing two-step down to Texas be all about the money, an astonishing package that no one apparently was prepared to touch, including Cohen, the richest man in baseball with an estimated worth of $17 billion. That Cohen drew the line at three years, $120 million (according to the New York Post) shows that he made a genuine effort to bring back the Mets’ 21st-century Seaver but wasn’t averse to applying some business sense.
It is interesting, however, that Cohen finally took a harder look at the bottom line with deGrom. This is the same billionaire owner who bid against himself in giving that record 10-year, $341 million contract to Francisco Lindor and made Max Scherzer the highest-salaried player in the game’s history with that $43.3 million AAV bestowed on him last winter.
Cohen didn’t blink in throwing cash at those two even though neither played a game that counted for the Mets before getting a share of the Flushing fortune. DeGrom, on the other hand, had a bona fide orange-and-blue legacy as a homegrown Met beloved by a fan base that already had been talking about where his No. 48 should hang at Citi Field.
So why did Cohen get religion now? Flirting with a $300-plus-million payroll for 2023 will do that to an owner, especially with plenty left on the winter to-do list.
Also, the longer you go without something, the less you need it, and the Mets already know what a post-deGrom life looks like. For the past two years, they’ve had a lot of practice at replacing him. The Mets won 101 games in 2022 and deGrom earned five of those Ws. Even with the planet's best pitcher, after a while, a franchise gets tired of constantly holding its breath waiting for him to return.
It’s also worth mentioning that deGrom made out pretty well for a pitcher who supposedly was woefully underpaid by his previous $137.5 million contract, the one orchestrated by his former agent-turned-Mets general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen. However wronged he felt by that pact, as was clear by his numerous opt-out declarations this past year, deGrom still raked in $67 million the last two years for a total of 26 starts (averaging six innings a pop).
Of course, injuries are part of the game, as are fully guaranteed contracts, so you place your bets and take your chances. But deGrom is different from just about anyone else because of the irresistible lure of his greatness. He’s a pitching unicorn, a freakishly strong beanpole capable of generating inexplicable velocity and movement. At his peak, deGrom is a supernatural phenomenon, like catching a glimpse of Bigfoot or a UFO, so masterful at his craft that even Max Scherzer gawks at his performances.
One of the last conversations I had with Scherzer about deGrom involved the future Hall of Famer saying he believed that he actually could be even better, and that was after seeing deGrom make the Atlanta hitters look utterly helpless in his first start back from a four-month stay on the injured list. Coming from Scherzer, and after observing deGrom the past nine years, it sounded plausible.
But deGrom appeared to regress from there, and maybe the desire to audition for his upcoming free agency took a toll after such a long stay on the shelf. Either that, or at age 34, with his extended medical history, it’s entirely possible the Mets already have wrung all the Grade A-dominance from deGrom’s wiry frame.
That’s not to suggest deGrom can’t summon his otherworldly excellence again. The question becomes for how long.
The Rangers are taking the over on deGrom and are paying big-time for that to benefit their rebuilding franchise, with a new GM in Chris Young trying to shake up the AL West.
When he's healthy, there’s no better show in baseball than deGrom, and the Mets got to enjoy that for nearly a decade in Flushing. But Cohen & Co. are in a different place now, having to fortify a roster thinned by free agency, and the Mets are past the point of needing deGrom’s electricity to keep the lights on at Citi Field.
Maybe it stings more that deGrom convinced us it was important to him to stay a lifelong Met, or that we were hypnotized by his greatness, expecting Cohen to pay anything to keep the ride going.
Regardless, it all came to a stunning, screeching halt Friday night. DeGrom won’t be pitching for the Mets anymore, but after the past two years, the shock of his absence is something everyone’s been working on getting over for a while now.