Jacob deGrom won’t negotiate during the MLB season

Jacob deGrom is in line for a new contract soon, but he has set a deadline for negotiations with the New York Mets as a new season gets closer.

MLB spring training is getting started this week, and a big chunk of free agents remain available. New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is not one of those free agents, but he is in position for a long-term deal.

According to the New York Post , deGrom has told the Mets he will not negotiate a new deal during the season. This comes after a previous report last week suggested contract talks had stalled over the last few months.

DeGrom is coming off a fantastic 2018 campaign, has he posted a major league-leading 1.70 ERA with an 11.2 K/9 and a 1.9 BB/9 over 217 innings on his way to winning the NL Cy Young Award. He allowed three runs or less in 29 straight starts, while doing so in 31 of his 32 starts, and from May 18 through the end of the season (24 starts) he delivered a quality start every time out.

Before you dismiss that run of quality starts, know that deGrom exceeded the minimum requirements (at least six innings, no more than three earned runs allowed) 22 times over that span.

DeGrom made $7.4 million last year, and in his third year of arbitration he got a record raise after agreeing to one-year $17 million deal this offseason. That $17 million per year may be a starting point for talks on a long-term deal, with an added layer of deGrom’s former agent Brodie Van Wagenen now being the Mets’ general manager. At last year’s All-Star break, Van Wagenen said the Mets should extend deGrom’s contract or trade him.

Van Wagenen has recused himself from contract negotiations with deGrom’s new agent, but even on the periphery he carries the ultimate authority along with a unique familiarity with the player. The Mets also have one more season of team control, as deGrom was a Super Two, so on their end it may not feel urgent to get into serious contract negotiations.

DeGrom is older than you might think, entering his age-31 season, but his only 200-plus inning seasons have been the last two and he should have plenty of good years left. If he were to hit the free agent market entering at age 33 season, a shorter deal would be in order, with two more seasons of workload on his arm at that point, along with the inherent risk of injury that simply comes with pitching.

From the Mets’ end, locking deGrom in a lower rate right now is something they have to be thinking about. The balance on both sides might sit somewhere around four years and $75-$80 million for a new contract, perhaps with vesting or club options involved beyond that.

It’s not new for a player to postpone contract negotiations, based on wanting to strictly focus on a new season. Even with added indications he would consider restricting his workload this season if he doesn’t get a new deal from the Mets, it’s a stretch to regard deGrom setting a deadline for negotiations as a threat.

But if a deal isn’t done by Opening Day, and the Mets fail to meet increased expectations, deGrom’s name will surely be bandied about in trade deadline rumors.