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Braves Would Be Favorites to Land Jacob deGrom in Free Agency, per Report

As the Mets continue waiting for the return of Jacob deGrom, a new report has emerged concerning the injured ace and potential 2023 free agent possibly joining one of the team’s fiercest rivals.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Saturday if deGrom exercises his opt-out clause in his contract at the end of the season, opening the door to leave New York with two years left on his contract, the Braves are believed to be the favorites to land him. The 34-year-old has been on the injured list all season, and is currently preparing to make his first rehab start for minor league affiliate Port St. Lucie on Sunday as he continues working his way back from a stress reaction on his right scapula.

“There is a perception in some corners of the industry that if Jacob deGrom follows through with what he said in the spring and opts out of his Mets’ contract, the Braves will be the favorites to land him,” Olney tweeted.

While Saturday’s report may suggest an exit could be imminent, deGrom, who grew up a Braves fan, didn’t appear to rule out the idea of staying with New York long-term during spring training. The four-time All-Star told reporters in March he planned to opt out and test free agency, but reiterated his love for the team he’s spent his entire career with; deGrom is set to earn $30.5 million next season after inking a five-year, $137.5 million contract extension in 2019.

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“As a player, you build in opt-outs and that is the business side of it, but for me I don’t want this to be any distraction,” he said, via MLB.com. “I am excited about this and said it before, love being a Met. I think it would be really cool to be one for my entire career, but the plan is to exercise my option, and be in constant contact in the offseason with the Mets and Steve Cohen and the front office.”

Should deGrom ultimately become available, their NL East foe wouldn’t be the Mets’ only threat to retaining his services. The ace hasn’t pitched in over 12 months thanks to a variety of injuries, including elbow and forearm issues that ended his season last July, but he’d still be a highly sought after arm on the open market. After winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019, deGrom finished the ’21 campaign with a 1.08 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 92 innings.

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