Mets Aren't Obligated To Negotiate With DeGrom Now
Perhaps Jacob deGrom spoke from frustration when he suggested he was considering cutting down on his innings this season if he doesn't get the extension from the Mets he is seeking. As of now, if a new contract isn’t worked out with the 30-year-old deGrom, the 2018 National League Cy Young Award winner will have a $17-million contract won in arbitration for this season, which would be a $9.6 million raise from the $7.4 arbitration award he won last year.
There have already been angry calls to the radio talk shows, with the callers saying such things as, ''I’ve always liked deGrom, but I don’t like the idea of him cutting back and not pitching when he's capable.''
It has been reported deGrom is seeking around $30 million annually in a long-term deal. Then again, haven’t we been hearing for months about how much Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will get?
Since deGrom won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season, there’s no incentive for the Mets to sign him now, especially since that is also the year the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association expires.
The Mets could conceivably pay deGrom for two years at around $20 million apiece by standing pat before addressing his free-agent year, by which time he’ll be 32, and his bargaining power would be reduced. The bottom line is the Mets aren’t obligated to pay deGrom for being 30 and not 26 or 28.
The Mets are gambling they can wait and possibly get a better CBA with the union and not have to pay deGrom $30-million-plus. They are also gambling deGrom will still give them a home team discount. DeGrom is gambling he’ll stay healthy and pitch as well as he did last year. There's also the risk the new CBA works in his favor.
The deGrom camp was trying to be calculative, thinking if the media that always supported him wrote the story it might pressure the Mets – including his former agent turned general manager Brodie Van Wagenen – into action.
After all, Van Wagenen said last week at the start of spring training players such as Machado and Harper didn’t ''fit'' into the Mets’ plans. With the money the Mets would save from not fishing in the free-agent pond, surely they would have more than enough to throw at deGrom.
As a high-powered agent with the Creative Artists Agency, surely Van Wagenen was aware of the Mets’ financial and spending history. If my cat knows of the Mets’ spending habits, then obviously Van Wagenen has an idea. DeGrom has already said he won’t negotiate after Opening Day, so what’s another threat?
The threat was the brainchild of deGrom’s new agent, Jeff Berry, who recently wrote a memo to the players, that after consecutive slow free-agent markets, the players could ensure their values by capping their workloads.
Since 2012 when the Washington Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg, teams have frequently shut down players early to either keep them healthy reaching incentives. Berry was simply suggesting to use the owners’ actions against them.
In his memo, Berry wrote: ''Front offices are praised as 'smart' when working within the rules to extract maximum performance value for such minimal monetary cost. Shouldn’t players also be 'smart' and likewise make calculated decisions within the rules to maintain and extend their maximum performance levels at maximum monetary values?''
Seems reasonable, but it would be career suicide for deGrom if he plays that card with the Mets, despite him saying he wants to finish his career with the organization. It’s ''bad optics,'' again for the Mets. DeGrom is essentially saying he won’t give the Mets his best. It’s almost on a par with Machado saying he won’t hustle.
It didn’t take long for the conflict of interest issue to arise between Van Wagenen’s former job with his current one.