deGrom a true bombshell, but we're just getting started

December 3rd, 2022

The Rangers took the first swing of this year’s Winter Meetings with a starting pitcher, and they did that before the meetings technically even started. They signed Jacob deGrom away from the Mets and everyone else on Friday night for a deal reportedly worth $185 million over five years, which could end up being $222 million for six years if deGrom is still healthy at the end of it. So the Rangers swung for the fences, just with an ace.

And in any other year of baseball free agency, it might have been the biggest possible free-agent news of the upcoming week.

Just maybe not this year, and not this week, and not with this free-agent class, filled with as many stars -- young and old and in between, the way deGrom is at 34 -- as any in baseball history.

deGrom goes to Texas with his two Cy Young Awards. But Justin Verlander is still out there with his three Cy Youngs and an MVP Award on his resume, coming off one of the best seasons of his life. Aaron Judge is still out there, too. He’s the star of stars this time, hitting the market after hitting 62 homers and producing offensive numbers that evoked the memories of both Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle at Yankee Stadium.

Four great shortstops -- Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson and Trea Turner -- will still be very much available when the sport arrives in San Diego and things officially begin on Sunday with the first Winter Meetings since 2019. Of those shortstops, all of whom have been on World Series winners in just the past five years, only Bogaerts is over 30, and he didn’t do it until October.

Carlos Rodón, a star pitcher who is five years younger than deGrom and 10 years younger than Verlander, is also a free agent this time around, and might make more business sense and even baseball sense to a team looking for an ace than either deGrom or Verlander.

We’ve been talking about Judge and his own free agency for months. But now it is another New York City star, deGrom, who makes the first headline of the baseball offseason with this kind of contract in Texas, despite the fact that he started just 12 games for the Mets this year as he spent the first four months of the season recovering from shoulder woes.

deGrom had himself a great Friday night. But so did Judge, and so did Verlander, and so did the shortstops. Say it again: There have been stars hitting free agency before, but perhaps not this many, from No. 2 (Bogaerts) all the way to No. 99, which means Judge, of course.

The Rangers set the market on Friday night. Now we all wait to see who’s next. And where. And for how much.

We know what deGrom looks like at his best, when he can throw his fastball at 100 mph with almost ridiculous ease. We saw what he could do when he was at his best for the Mets, especially in those two Cy Young seasons of 2018 and ’19. Now the Rangers place a huge bet on him staying healthy, and pitching for them the way he pitched for the Mets. deGrom's season didn’t begin until late July this past year. He then ended up winning five games out of the Mets’ 101. He also won them their only postseason game, Game 2 of their Wild Card Series against the Padres.

The Mets reportedly offered deGrom $120 million over three years to stay. The Rangers went to five years, with the possibility of a sixth. Now the spotlight turns to Verlander, even if he does turn 40 in February. Verlander went out and pitched at the age of 39 the way the Rangers hope deGrom is still pitching for them when he gets to that age, winning a Cy Young and a World Series ring with Houston.

With deGrom off the board, the bidding for Verlander could get even more intense, with the Astros, Dodgers, Mets and possibly even the Yankees all involved.

Christmas came early for Jacob deGrom. It’s going to just keep coming in baseball for Verlander, Rodón, the four big shortstops and others. You know what Friday night really felt like? Opening Day, just in December.