Jacob deGrom pauses before pitching against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning at Citi Field.

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Keidel: Mets Can't Let DeGrom's Contract Situation Drag Out

NY Must Extend Or Deal Ace Before Trade Deadline

Jason Keidel
July 17, 2018 - 10:45 am

There are myriad reasons that Jacob deGrom - or at least his agent - is frustrated. With a microscopic 1.68 ERA, deGrom would be about 13-2 on the Yankees or Red Sox, instead of his current, pedestrian record of 5-4. Despite their 12-game mirage to start the season (11-1), the Mets are now arguably the worst team in the National League, a funhouse distortion of a baseball club. 

Baseball historians often point out that the most spellbinding number from Bob Gibson's 1968 season - perhaps the best in history - wasn't his 1.12 ERA, but rather his nine losses. How does anyone pitch that well and lose that often? DeGrom can relate. At least Gibson got 22 wins, while the Mets' sublime starter may not get half that many. Consider that deGrom had a stretch of ten starts in which he gave up six total runs, yet the Mets went 2-8 during said starts. Adding to the agony is the fact that deGrom can't find solace in his team's place in the standings, in his stats, or his bank account. 

Is it absurd that a 30-year-old pitcher hasn't tasted the money-rich waters of free agency? Sure. His $7.4 million salary this season is about a third of what he's worth, and he barely makes more than Sonny Gray ($6.5 million) makes this year. Even worse, he's under team control through 2020. With the weight of low pay and lower production around him, deGrom's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, is unloading both of his PR barrels on the Mets, asserting that either the team pay him or trade him. 

>>MORE: Jacob DeGrom's Agent Suggests Mets Trade Him If They Don't Extend

It's the only move deGrom's reps have - shout the obvious and hope his employer listens. The Mets would get the biggest haul if they deal deGrom before July 31 - the non-waiver trade deadline - since he won't be an unrestricted free agent for another year and a half. They can also tear up his current contract and pay him something somewhat commensurate to his talent and production. According to deGrom's rep, such a move would tear down an emotional firewall between employee and employer. 

The abject joke of it all is the Mets don't have to do either. DeGrom has been the one Met who's both ready for duty and worth watching. The club's best position player, Yoenis Cespedes, seems to have his mail forwarded to the DL, with reporters breathlessly seeking his whereabouts like he's the newest Pokemon. 

And while the team's other ace, Noah Syndergaard, has gotten all the pub, the hulking good looks, and the best comic book handle in baseball, Thor had pitched only 100 innings since the beginning of 2017 when he recently came off the DL for a bum finger. In reality, deGrom is the Mets' best player, while also being their most productive and seductive trade bait.

There's a fine argument for both. Sign your top starter, lock him into a five-year deal, and have a happy ace in the clubhouse. Or they can try a carbon copy of the Yankees' blueprint for a quick rebuild - trade deGrom to a club for a gaggle of prospects - with one of them hopefully as gifted as Gleyber Torres - then fill their diamond with young studs. Then perhaps bring deGrom back to Queens the way the Bombers brought back Aroldis Chapman from the Cubs.  

>>MORE: Sale, Scherzer Picked Over Severino, DeGrom For All-Star Game Starts

The latter is highly improbable, far more dream sequence than practical baseball business. First, there aren't many players of Torres' talent, but it's possible to find. What's less likely is the Mets digging that deeply into their pockets to lure the free agent (and 32-year-old) deGrom back to Flushing. But signing deGrom to a long-term deal only takes money, a desire to win, and an affinity for their fans - a most common trinity among successful baseball clubs.  

The only wrong move is to let this drag out until 2020 and then lose deGrom to some contender - perhaps from their own division - and get nothing back. So while the Mets aren't tethered to deGrom's wishes, they should listen to his surrogates. The Mets have two weeks to do one of two logical things, with the future of the franchise likely to pivot on July 31. If the Mets don't trade Jacob deGrom, then they better pay him. 

The only wrong move is to do nothing, something the Mets too often find a fine option. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel