It’s not entirely clear why the New York Mets are reluctant to extend Jacob deGrom, but if age is their main concern they’re worrying about the wrong thing.
Heading into Spring Training it seemed like both the New York Mets and Jacob deGrom were cautiously optimistic that some sort of extension could be worked out before the regular season rolled around. Now, with opening day less than a week away, that doesn’t seem so likely.
The Mets hesitance to extend is baffling on many levels.
deGrom is coming off of a Cy Young season where he racked up 269 strikeouts with a 1.70 ERA over 217 innings. What’s more, in five MLB seasons, he’s never had an ERA above 3.53.
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On top of this, he is one of the team’s highest-profile players and is someone Mets fans want to see hang around for a long, long time.
Looking at deGrom and his situation as a whole the only apparent possible area of concern is his age; he’ll be 31 this season, and an extension would likely lead to the Mets hanging on to him into his mid-thirties if not beyond.
This is certainly something the team needs to think about moving forward, but it shouldn’t be enough to stop them from extending him, especially if they are truly in “win now” mode.
To this point, deGrom’s play has not shown us any of the usual signs that a decline is coming in the near future. Since 2016 his fastball has actually increased in velocity by over 2 MPH, coming over a period where he saw a major uptick in innings pitched.
Corey Kluber, another pitcher who is a few years older than deGrom, has also excelled through this period of his life and has been able to consistently remain in the Cy Young conversation.
There certainly are pitchers who have fallen off going into their age 33/34/35 season, but these dropoffs generally don’t come out of nowhere, and few of them ever showed the type of stuff that deGrom was throwing on a regular basis last year.
With this said deGrom’s success wouldn’t be guaranteed. Anything can happen and pitchers, in particular, can have their careers ripped apart by injury.
Still, it not being a guarantee doesn’t tip the risk-reward scale to a point where the Mets not jumping on signing deGrom makes sense. They are currently negotiating with a player who has explicitly stated he hopes to remain with the team, and every second they don’t sign him brings them closer to a point where frustrations sour him on the idea.
At this point, age shouldn’t be the deciding factor, and it would be a shame to see things fall apart because the New York Mets were scared he might have a bad year at 35 after staying elite for the majority of their window. If you’re truly a win now team act like it, and as David Ortiz said: “Pay the man!”