Jacob deGrom has undoubtably been one of the best pitchers in baseball the last 10 years. He may even be one of the most dominant pitchers of all-time, but he falls on the unfortunate list of athletes who has talents that are outweighed by injuries, and make you wonder of what could have been.
deGrom is a two-time Cy Young award winner but, since the shortened 2020 season, he hasn’t made more than 15 starts in a season, or thrown more than 92 innings. Now, at age 35, he likely won’t pitch again until he is 37 years old. After the Rangers shelled out five years and $185 million for the free agent ace, they actually put a clause in his contract should he miss extended time due to Tommy John within the first four years of the contract. Wherein a sixth year, in 2028, would turn to a club option. That doesn’t do anything for a win-now Rangers team in 2023, but in terms of money and flexibility in the future, it eases the pain, if ever so slightly.
It should also be noted that the Mets did have concern about deGrom’s injury history, in addition to not passing Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker for a physical after they drafted him. Rocker would re-enter the draft the following year and was picked by Texas, now both pitchers require Tommy John surgery.
What about the legacy of Jacob deGrom?
In today’s era of sports, I really do think legacy talk is overrated. It’s really an issue that plagues the NBA more so than anything else, but in this regard I think it’s something we can seriously take a look at with Jacob deGrom. He isn’t getting any younger, and he just had an injury that is going to cause him to miss significant time (although we saw an older Justin Verlander come back from the same thing like nothing ever happened).
In a vacuum, his 2018-19 seasons, where he won back-to-back Cy Young awards, are two of the most dominant seasons in baseball history. Some may consider his 2018 campaign the most dominant pitching performance ever, on a not very good New York team. He definitely isn’t better than Verlander, Kershaw, or Scherzer, but he might very well be fighting for that four to six spot.
At this rate, can deGrom crack the Hall of Fame? I honestly don’t know. The Baseball Hall of Fame is notoriously stingy, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the BBWAA rejects him on the premise that he “didn’t pitch enough” despite being the most dominant guy in the league when he was throwing 200 plus innings a season. For me, he gets in. Maybe not first ballot, but he definitely deserves that honor.
Here’s the good news, Rangers fans: this is all just speculation. deGrom has shown absolutely no signs of losing velocity, control, movement, or tenacity from any of his pitches or himself. We all witnessed a 38-year-old Justin Verlander miss an entire season due to Tommy John, then come back the next year and throw 175 innings with a 1.75 ERA and win the Cy Young award. deGrom is the type of guy that can do that. It’s not nearly as serious of an injury as it used to be, the only back-breaking part is the amount of time it takes to recover. Maybe the year off will do the rest of his body a favor as well, you never know. I wouldn’t put it past anyone for him to come back and be just as good for several more years.
Best case scenario: deGrom bounces back like Verlander and everything is ok.
Worst case scenario: deGrom’s body continues to be plagued with injuries and he is just never the same, and limps to the finish line of this contract.
Either way, he has a case for the Hall of Fame in my eyes.