The Mets have agreed to terms on an extension with star right-hander Jacob deGrom, according to Andy Martino of SNY.tv (Twitter links). deGrom, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, is undergoing a physical Tuesday. The contract includes four years and $120.5M in new money, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported (Twitter links), with some of it deferred.
Earlier this year, deGrom agreed to a $17M arbitration contract for the 2019 season. That effectively remains in place, though it is now restructured as a $10M signing bonus and $7M salary, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. What would have been deGrom’s final arbitration season, 2020, will be locked in at $23M. He’ll then earn $33.5M in each of the next two seasons and $30.5M in 2023 — if he does not first opt out. The option-year value is $32.5M, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan tweets.
If indeed a deal is finalized, it’d bring an end to a long-running and rather fascinating saga regarding deGrom’s future. It was just last summer that deGrom’s then-agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, was advocating that the team either work out an extension or trade the ace right-hander. In a cinematic twist, Van Wagenen became Mets general manager last fall, recusing himself from direct extension talks with deGrom while the pitcher chose to remain with the same agency (CAA Baseball). (That recusal concept was evidently of rather limited scope, or has since been modified or waived, as Sherman tweets that Van Wagenen was personally on hand for the final negotiations.)
The sides held preliminary talks at the Winter Meetings, but then a lengthy silent period ensued. After agreeing to a 2019 arbitration salary, which included a record-setting $9.6M raise, the deGrom camp put an Opening Day deadline on talks, so the clock was ticking. It seemed hopeful as camp opened that a deal would materialize, but the more recent vibe was much less promising.
As it turns out, the sides lined up on a contract that understandably includes some concessions in both directions. deGrom will turn 31 this June and was not set to reach the open market until the conclusion of the 2020 campaign. Compare that to Chris Sale, whose recent extension came just before his 30th birthday and entering his final season of contractual control. (Of course, the lefty was also coming off of an injury-limited second half to the 2018 season.) Sale’s contract provided five seasons and $145M in new earnings; he’ll pitch the entire final season of that deal at 35 years of age. deGrom receives a slightly higher AAV, even though the first new contract year covers an arb-eligible season, and will celebrate his 35th birthday in the middle of his final guaranteed season (if he hasn’t already opted out).
Both of those outstanding hurlers might have found greater riches in free agency. Zack Greinke had already turned 32 when he secured a six-year, $206.5M deal with the Diamondbacks. But that deal seemed an outlier when it was signed and the market has since shifted. Clayton Kershaw hadn’t yet turned 31 and had produced nothing but excellent results when he re-upped with the Dodgers last fall, but settled for a three-year pact after experiencing back issues and peripheral declines.
There’s also ample risk in pitching a full MLB season, so extensions have generally lagged free agency in value to a greater extent than is the case for position players. A few still-youthful hurlers nearing free agency have secured bigger money — Kershaw didn’t quite reach $200M in his first long-term contract if you deduct his anticipated arbitration salary from that season; Stephen Strasburg secured $175M over seven new seasons part-way through his final year of team control. But otherwise, the largest pitching extensions have gone to Sale ($145M), Cole Hamels ($144.5M), and Justin Verlander ($140M).