John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The story wasn't going to go away, even if the two sides had wound up tabling negotiations until next off-season.
Because regardless of whether the Mets could make a case that it was good business to wait on Jacob deGrom's contract extension, Brodie Van Wagenen's player-first mantra was going to ring hollow if they didn't "pay the man, already," as Noah Syndergaard demanded on Sunday.
So if Syndergaard's commentary was the proof the organization needed to fully understand all of this, well, good for him.
And if it took the blitz of contract extensions around baseball this spring, most notably for Justin Verlander and Chris Sale, to put additional pressure on the Mets to lock up their own ace, well, now none of that matters.
The bottom line is Van Wagenen and ownership got a deal done with deGrom on a five-year, $137.5 million contract, as first reported by SNY's Andy Martino.
And just like that, the jokes stopped about the Mets being stuck on the tarmac for three hours en route to Syracuse, as all anyone is talking about is Opening Day in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, with deGrom on the mound opposite Max Scherzer.
In the Mets' clubhouse the vibe is bound to be different as well. Players may still not be thrilled about the circuitous route to D.C., via Sarasota and Syracuse, but they surely will have a little more bounce in their step for Tuesday's workout in the Carrier Dome.
DeGrom means that much to this team, on the mound and in the clubhouse as well. And while Syndergaard was the only player to speak up on the subject, you can bet he wasn't the only one asking privately when the heck was ownership going to do right by the guy who was the best pitcher in baseball last season.
Same goes for the fans. Negativity comes with the territory of rooting for this franchise, and if deGrom hadn't gotten a new deal the fan base would have been convinced he would become the modern-day Tom Seaver, maybe not traded in mid-career but walking away as a free agent in two years.
Now there is reason to believe deGrom will be a lifetime Met, as this contract extension takes him to age 35 and buys out three years of free agency, with a club option year for 2024 that could make the deal worth $170 million.
And while the former college shortstop got started relatively late in the big leagues, after Tommy John surgery as a minor-leaguer, there is still a chance he could make a run at the Hall of Fame.
Through 139 starts over five seasons, he has a 2.67 ERA, to go with a record of 55-41. By the old standard that prioritized wins, he'd have no shot, but as his own Cy Young season proved, greatness is now judged by more controllable factors, and if deGrom pitches at a high level for another five or six years, he would be in the conversation for Cooperstown.
That's not necessarily the reason you make this commitment if you're the Mets, but it's at least a peripheral consideration that helps justify the risk. Indeed, in so many ways this organization needs to rid itself of all that aforementioned negativity, and this is a start.
Van Wagenen seems to get that part of it. He's making a point of embracing Mets' history -- another sore spot with fans -- by hiring a high-profile former Met in Al Leiter to be part of the front office, and giving John Franco more than a ceremonial role in the organization as well.
It remains to be seen if the new GM's off-season moves pay off, but at the very least he has brought energy and fresh ideas to an organization that badly needed both.
Yet all of that would have taken a backseat, especially in the Mets' clubhouse, if he hadn't been able to convince ownership to get a deal done with deGrom. Indeed, all of his talk of establishing a players-first culture would have sounded phony if the former agent couldn't deliver on a deal for the guy on whose behalf he made those pay-me-or-trade-me threats just last July.
Obviously there's risk in doing the deal two years ahead of free agency, but the Mets also locked up deGrom up for an average of $27.5 million a year, which is a lot less than it would have cost them if they'd waited even one more year.
And, look, if they really want to assure a bright future, the Mets should be thinking about making sure Zack Wheeler doesn't walk after this season, as well as locking up Syndergaard and Michael Conforto to the types of team-friendly extensions that so many teams have gotten done this spring.
But for the moment at least, with deGrom's deal done, everyone can take a deep breath and get excited about baseball. For the Mets, that adds up to the rare day when they can feel like they're 1-0 before the season starts.