Jacob deGrom, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers, though injuries limited his availability, capitalized on his pedigree by agreeing to a stunning five-year, $185 million contract Friday with the Texas Rangers.
The right-hander’s signing, announced by the club, continues a superb two-year run in which the struggling Rangers paid $741 million for free agents, including $500 million for infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien almost exactly a year ago.
Texas finished 68-94 despite that lavish outlay, fired manager Chris Woodward and signed three-time World Series winner Bruce Bochy in hopes of producing the club’s first winning season since 2016.
Those odds were significantly improved on Friday – as was deGrom’s bank account.
DeGrom, who opted out of the final year of a five-year, $137.5 million extension he signed with the Mets in 2019, has benefited from both his rarefied status as a stoppage pitcher and a limited market for beginners. He will turn 35 next season and has pitched just 64 innings in 2022 as a shoulder blade injury delayed his first start until August.
Nonetheless, deGrom will be guaranteed $37 million per season, second only to former teammate Max Scherzer’s $43.3 million per year on a three-year contract with the Mets. DeGrom also tops the $36 million Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole earns on a nine-year, $324 million contract signed after the 2019 season.
All of this justifies deGrom confidently declaring in spring training that he would opt out of the final year of his contract with the Mets and he stuck to it, thanks in large part to an 11-over-nine-innings batting record. during his career, and an untouchable streak from 2018-19 that earned him back-to-back National League Cy Young awards.
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Elbow inflammation limited him to 15 starts and 92 innings in 2021, and he didn’t pitch again after July 7. The unrelated shoulder blade injury pushed his time between regular season starts to nearly 13 months.
But he’s more dominant than ever: deGrom has smashed a career-high 14.3 batters per nine innings in 2021 and 22, and posted a 0.63 WHIP in those 26 starts, despite giving up a high career 1.5 homers per nine innings in 11 outings last year.
It turned out to be the last of deGrom’s nine seasons with the Mets, a stint that began when he won NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2014, included a surprise trip to the World Series 2015 and ended with his victory in game 2 against San Diego. in the NL wildcard series.
The Rangers, clearly, weren’t intimidated by any physical issues, guaranteeing deGrom nearly $50 million more than he received in his 2019 extension from the Mets when he was four years old. less and was coming out of back-to-back Cy Youngs.
The signing is a superb preemptive strike ahead of baseball’s winter meetings, which begin Sunday in San Diego. The Rangers will introduce deGrom to Texas at a press conference after meetings next week.
DeGrom will face a rotation that includes the return of left-hander Martin Perez, who accepted the $19.65 million qualifying offer, and Jon Gray, whose four-year, $56 million contract came in the stride of the Seager-Semien pacts a year ago.
Now deGrom is entering the mercenary phase of his career, much like former teammate Scherzer — who signed a three-year, $130 million deal to join him with the Mets this year. Along with fellow free agent Justin Verlander, they ushered in a new era of the boutique pitcher — generational talent plugged into a win-now rotation while earning massive annual salaries on shorter-term contracts.
Verlander, also a free agent, may not have the five-year guarantee like deGrom. But with deGrom shockingly off the board, reigning AL Cy Young winner Verlander will suddenly have an overheated market for his serve that includes the Dodgers, Astros and most likely the New York Yankees.
Oh, and also the Mets, who must now replace deGrom, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker in their rotation.
“I wish him luck,” Mets owner Steve Cohen told SNY. “Now this team has to move on.”
This thing probably got a lot more expensive after deGrom’s amazing and very lucrative defection.
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