By Zach Gewelb
If you’re a Mets fan, you’ve surely heard the rumors that the team may listen to trade offers for starting pitcher Jacob deGrom. Rather than look to trade him, the Mets should look to extend their ace and make him the face of the franchise for years to come.
A move like that would give deGrom a vote of confidence and show the other players on the roster that superb performance will be rewarded. But in Queens, that’s easier said than done.
The Wilpons — who own the club — are not known for their extravagant spending habits and deGrom isn’t set to be a free agent until after the 2020 season. However, he was paid close to the MLB minimum from 2014-2016 before making $4.05 million in 2017 and $7.4M in 2018. He will also get significant raises in arbitration the next two seasons that could push his salary close to $20 million by 2020.
Assuming the club decides not to trade him this season, the Mets’ ace is going to get paid a hefty salary the next two years anyway, so the team should look to extend him now before his salary rises through arbitration.
He is clearly the best player on the team — he’s been healthier and more consistent that Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes — and has proven to be a great clubhouse guy, too. Those are the players that should be locked up long term. It’s easy for the media and fans to argue that as the Mets continue to struggle in 2018, the club should trade off their best players in an effort to replenish a weak farm system and kick off a rebuilding effort. And they wouldn’t be completely wrong in thinking that.
But deGrom, 30, should be the one player the Mets hold on to. They can trade some of their other veterans like Asdrubal Cabrera, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier and Jeurys Familia. But not deGrom, who is currently the best pitcher in baseball.
The righty has pitched to a 5-2 record and a 1.51 ERA — the best mark in the league among qualified starters — in his first 15 starts of the season. He’s walked just 24 batters and struck out 120 in 95.1 innings pitched.
While deGrom would fetch a ton in a trade, he is more valuable to the Mets if he’s pitching every fifth day. The need him to lead their staff and to try and pitch the club back into playoff contention. And if the Mets crash and burn this year, they can always trade him in the offseason, when he’d still be the best available starter and have two full seasons of control.
His age makes it difficult to peg just what kind of extension the Mets should offer. But a five-year, $100 million would be a great starting point. It’s clear deGrom is a legitimate ace and he deserves to be paid like one. The Mets should hold on to him this season and look to lock him up sooner rather than later. He’s too valuable to let go.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe