Jacob deGrom caught everyone off guard Friday night, then again we should not be shocked or blame the Mets with his decision to leave New York for a five-year, $185 million contract with the Texas Rangers.
This was inevitable and a matter of when, where, and how much? The most sought after pitcher on the free agent market is off the board, arguably the Mets’ franchise pitcher next to Tom Seaver and Doc Gooden. But this was no fault of the Mets.
It was a deGrom decision, a game of economics. It was deGrom, even on that October night at Citi Field, when the Mets were eliminated by the Padres in their NL Wild Card series, knowing it would be his last time in the Mets clubhouse.
All along this opt out year, deGrom was questioned about his future. After missing four months of the season with a stress reaction in his shoulder resulting in 64 1/3 innings pitched, and in the postgame media scrums it was deGrom dismissing the real question about his future.
We got the answer Friday evening. The Mets did not respond with another offer after a brief back-and- forth Thursday evening because deGrom had made his decision that New York and the Mets would not be his lasting legacy.
Yes, Mets fans are in disbelief. They frown about allowing another franchise great to leave town, different from the Tom Seaver trade fiasco and another all-time great, Nolan Ryan, who was dealt out of town in an ill fated trade. And the richest owner in the game, Steve Cohen is not to blame, nor should he be compared to the miserly days of the Wilpon owned Mets.
Regardless of the circumstances, this is reality. Because the next time Jacob deGrom returns to Citi Field in late August, he will be on the mound or in the opposite field dugout wearing a uniform of the Texas Rangers.
The Mets will move on from this as the annual Baseball Winter Meetings commence Sunday in San Diego, and they will be in pursuit to replace deGrom in the rotation. You hear reports of Justin Verlander, the 40-year-old AL CY Young Award winner, reuniting with 37-year old Max Scherzer.
And Carlos Rodon, a 29-year old coming off two good years with the White Sox and Giants respectively, has already been in discussions with the Mets hierarchy. The Mets, with $40 million coming off the books, are expected to be active during the meetings and remainder of the offseason to shore up the rotation, bullpen, and in the hunt for another potent bat in their lineup.
But realize this, the Mets did not strike out here. There were many factors as to why Jacob deGrom is in Texas and no longer in Flushing. It goes beyond the dollars and cents of reportedly offering an injury prone, 34-year old pitcher, a three year deal in the range of $120 million or more.
I heard accounts of deGrom not content about receiving Max Scherzer money, a desire to leave New York, and was able to confirm this from numerous sources. The on and off discussion about a new contract was dismissed numerous times.
The Mets did not strike out here, even as medical reports say deGrom is healthy but continuous strain to the arm, elbow, shoulder, and his back were a concern. It would be a risk to retain him as a long term Met and a hefty contract.
Apparently, though, the Rangers went with the risk as they rebuild a pitching staff. They envision deGrom as their anchor to getting back into contention in a division with the World Series champion Astros, the upcoming Mariners, and expected comeback year of the Angels.
So negative feedback is expected. Fans did not want to see their generational righthander with a blazing fastball, nasty slider, elite change and curve, and a two-time Cy Young Award winner leave town. The Mets won 101 games this past season, deGrom won five (5-4) with a 3.08 ERA in 11 starts.
So, no major loss in the rotation, despite the continued dominance in strikeouts with 102 and eight walks. Though nine home run balls, not a part of his repertoire, possibly showed his command was not the same. In essence, this was not the same Jacob deGrom even with those strikeouts and limited amount of innings.
A longtime NL scout who observed two of degrom’s starts this year said to me in September, “He is not overpowering and that is common coming off his injuries, but there are sure signs of caution. The delivery is different, the velocity of the fastball is not consistent.”
He saw something and at 34-years of age, perhaps the Mets were not taking the risk the Rangers did. So don’t fault the Mets here as there are many factors and deGrom made his decision.
Except, we will miss those days of dominance on the mound at Citi Field. He was electric in that second game at Citi Field in October against the Padres in the NL Wild Card series that kept the Mets postseason ongoing.
But the truth of the matter here is this, Jacob deGrom wanted out of New York and the Mets. The Mets did not strikeout in their efforts to retain one of their all-time pitching greats. The Rangers took the risk, deGrom opted to take his records and pitch for a team that will struggle again to contend and win more than 70 games.
And deGrom will always have a legacy with those Cy Young Award seasons here. But he won’t be remembered like David Wright as that longtime New York Met and member of their Hall of Fame.
Jacob deGrom struck out, not the Mets.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso. Watch “Sports With Rich” with Rich and Robert Rizzo Tuesday evening live 8pmET on the SLG Network and YouTube