The New York Mets signed ace pitcher Jacob deGrom to a huge contract extension in the amount of five years for $137.5 million. The Mets kept someone who is arguably their best player and the face of the franchise. In an off season where the Mets did nothing like they normally do, this was the tip of the iceberg. Extending deGrom was the biggest move by far, but look at what this franchise has done leading into the season. Are the Mets becoming a big-market team?
Adding Overall Depth
Let’s check all the boxes. Did the Mets add overall depth to the major league roster? Yes. At least for this year, when a player goes down with an injury when the Mets reach down to their Triple-A team they will be bringing up a player who has had prior success in the major leagues. (See Rajai Davis and Carlos Gomez, specifically.) While one could argue there were more of those players they could have brought — specifically, starting pitchers such as Gio Gonzalez and Shelby Miller — this was a good start. Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen needs to continue to do this.
Did the Mets bring in players who have versatility to play multiple positions? Yes. Jed Lowrie played second base and third base in 2018. J.D. Davis played first base, third base, and even some outfield in 2018. Jeff McNeil, a returning player, is listed all over the depth chart as he learns new positions this year.
Have the Mets finally started to put winning above everything else? Yes. A big offseason topic was Pete Alonso. Alonso dominated the minor leagues in 2018. All we kept hearing was that the Mets will start him at Triple-A for a few weeks so they can save one more year of team control. That makes business sense, but not any sense for the 2019 season. Alonso made the club out of spring training and is the starting first basemen.
Have the Mets spent money like a big-market team? This is the last box that needs to be checked. Giving deGrom the money he deserves — and would receive on the open market — is a start. But, the Mets had two opportunities to potentially bring in a game-changing player in the prime of his career. All it would have cost is 10 years and $300 million. For those who feel that the Mets don’t spend like a team that plays in New York, the deGrom signing slaps me right in the face. If this team has money to spend, why not sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper? Can one argue that neither is worth the money they eventually got from the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies? Of course, but who is really “worth the money” anyway?
If the Mets felt that neither player was a good fit for the team, then fine, but the argument can certainly be made that prior to signing Lowrie, Machado was the perfect fit for the Mets. He plays third base, and the Mets do have an opening at that position. Also, the Mets are extremely left-handed. Machado is the kind of right-handed bat the Mets desperately need with Yoenis Cespedes on the injured list.
deGrom’s Back Story
But today, the big story is Jacob deGrom. He was a shortstop at Stetson University until converting into a pitcher during his junior season. The Mets selected him in the ninth round with the 272nd pick in the 2010 draft. During his first season in rookie ball he had a partial tear of the UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) in his elbow. He ultimately had Tommy John surgery and did not pitch in 2011.
During the “Mets Renaissance” that was built around starting pitchers, he was not heralded at all. The headliners were Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Rafael Montero. deGrom was never mentioned. In 2014, deGrom made his debut on May 15th at Citi Field against the New York Yankees. When Dillon Gee got hurt, it allowed the Mets to start deGrom, and he pitched seven strong innings, yielding only one run in the Mets’ 1-0 loss.
deGrom won Rookie of the Year, going 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA. He was beloved by Met fans for his toughness and determination on the mound, as seen during the 2015 playoffs. His 2018 Cy Young season was historic for both the numbers he put up and the lack of run support he received, resulting in a 10-win season. deGrom should have easily won 20 games with how effectively he pitched.
Off the Field
Giving deGrom the money is not an unwise decision. He is not Matt Harvey. He does not have a nickname like “The Dark Knight.” His starts at Citi Field were not looked at like Broadway shows as Harvey’s were. deGrom compared to Harvey like David Cone did to Dwight Gooden. Gooden had the splashy “Dr. K” nickname, and every start was a must-see, just like Harvey. However, Cone eventually became the headline as Gooden sputtered — much like Harvey did.
deGrom has been nothing but a class-act on and off the field. He has never said or done anything to embarrass himself or the Mets organization.
The Mets always have had a hard time keeping their own homegrown players, but when they do, it ends up like David Wright. That does not mean they should stop signing their own players for market value.
The 2019 Mets, led by Brodie Van Wagenen, have checked a lot of boxes that were previously empty. However, there is one more box that needs to be checked. This Jacob deGrom contract will hopefully be the start of something new. The Mets play in the biggest market. Now they are acting like a big-market team.
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