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MLB Insider: How New York Mets Should Approach Jacob deGrom Contract Talks

MLB Insider: How New York Mets should approach Jacob deGrom contract talks.

Although he has yet to thrown a pitch during the 2022 regular season, New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom is expected to opt out of his contract following the year.

Prior to suffering a stress reaction on his right scapula that has knocked him out of action since April 1, deGrom previously said back in March that he planned to become a free agent after the season. 

While both sides would like to make deGrom a Met for life, the two-time Cy Young Award winner comes along with some injury risk. Last season, deGrom's campaign ended on July 7 due to forearm and elbow issues. This year he has yet to make his season debut - and albeit the Mets are pleased with how he is progressing in his rehab - he is unlikely to rejoin New York's rotation until late June or early July. The Mets have refrained from putting a timeline on him as well. 

So if deGrom still winds up opting out, this is how MLB insider Jim Bowden says he would approach the situation from the Mets' perspective.

How the Mets approach a new contract should depend on the most recent MRIs on deGrom’s right shoulder and elbow, along with a full-body CT scan and input from their medical staff on future injury risk. When healthy, deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball, but he last pitched 200 innings in 2019, logging 68 in the shortened 2020 season and 92 last year. He turns 34 in June.

If I were the Mets, I would meet with deGrom and his agent and start the negotiations by telling them I wanted him to finish his career with the club. I would ask him to work with us to create a contract that makes sense for both parties. I would be willing to make deGrom one of the highest-paid starting pitchers by average annual value if he signed one-year rollover contracts; if he makes 30 starts and is not on the injured list to finish the season, the next year would automatically vest. I would try to find common ground on a one-year deal framework, pointing to Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright’s recent deals. Given deGrom’s injury history, I would not want to do a longer-term deal.

This is an interesting blue print from Bowden, a former general manager of the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals. Taking a long-term risk on deGrom at this point would be difficult - even if he returns this summer and reverts back to the dominant ace he was prior to getting injured near the midway point a season ago. 

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The Mets already have another aging ace Max Scherzer locked up in 2023 and 2024 on a historic contract that pays the 37-year-old a record-setting $43 million AAV. Scherzer is currently on the I.L. with an oblique strain that will keep him out for 6-8 weeks. 

Additionally, Chris Bassitt, the Mets' interim No. 1 starter, is set to become a free agent after the season ends and has made it clear that he'd "love to stay here long-term." Bassitt is a year younger than deGrom and will likely command big money on the open market, but currently looks like the more durable option to invest in long-term. Had the Mets not traded for Bassitt in March, Carlos Carrasco would be their No. 1 starter right now with deGrom and Scherzer sidelined for the foreseeable future. 

DeGrom is a special pitcher; the best hurler in the game since the beginning of 2018. He has also pitched with the Mets for his entire career since making his major league debut in 2014. But given how the last two seasons have played out, the Mets can't rely on him staying healthy. This doesn't mean they should let him go, but It's why a creative deal makes sense for both sides. Whether he pitches this season or not, deGrom is still likely to draw a deal in the $40 million AAV range. 

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