NEW YORK -- Not every scout at Citi Field on Monday was there to watch Jacob deGrom -- eight days out from the non-waiver Trade Deadline -- but over the game's first hour or so, they would have had a hard time ignoring him. Through four shutout innings, deGrom threw
NEW YORK -- Not every scout at Citi Field on Monday was there to watch Jacob deGrom -- eight days out from the non-waiver Trade Deadline -- but over the game's first hour or so, they would have had a hard time ignoring him. Through four shutout innings, deGrom threw six balls and 31 strikes, facing the minimum and proving, in no uncertain terms, why he remains a dream acquisition for any contender with a pulse.
That deGrom -- or, more accurately, deGrom and the defense behind him -- ultimately cracked for three runs in eight innings, sending the Mets to a 3-2 loss to the Padres, did nothing to undermine his status as this year's Justin Verlander, this year's Carsten Sabathia, this year's Randy Johnson, this year's big-ticket pitcher who could push a contender to new October heights.
Despite his agent's sign-me-or-trade-me proclamation before last week's All-Star Game, that much isn't up to deGrom. The Mets have made it clear they won't deal their ace without the type of return that many teams in baseball -- contenders, even -- can't provide. So until proven otherwise, deGrom will continue pitching every fifth game for a team that often loses in spite of him.
The trouble for deGrom on Monday began when a routine fly ball glanced off Jose Bautista's glove with one out in the fifth, falling to the turf for an error. The Padres followed with two of their four hits off deGrom, scoring twice to take a lead they would never relinquish.
An inning later, William Myers hit a double just out of Jose Reyes' reach, then came around to score on an Amed Rosario error.
Such is life this year for deGrom, who fell to 5-5 despite a league-leading 1.71 ERA.
The Mets touched Padres starter Joey Lucchesi for a run in the third inning and another in the sixth, but otherwise went quietly against San Diego's pitching staff.
"You want to win baseball games," deGrom said. "But the goal is for the team to win. I would like the team to have more wins, and that's not the case."
As such, the Mets are looking toward 2019 and beyond. They traded closer Jeurys Familia to the A's on Saturday and could soon part with Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores or any number of other players. Although Mets officials also continue to discuss deGrom with rival teams, assistant general manager John Ricco cautioned before the game that "there are actually only a certain number of teams that could make that move, in our eyes, in terms of the talent we'd be looking to get back."
Translation: a trade of MLB's ERA leader is possible, but improbable.
"We love him," Ricco said. "We know what we have. He's one of the top pitchers in the game, and in order to move him in a trade it would take an awful lot."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
There is only one pitcher on the Mets' staff, manager Mickey Callaway said, for whom he would not have pinch-hit with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth. After Reyes pulled the Mets within a run of the lead with his swinging bunt, that pitcher emerged from the on-deck circle to take his hacks. Ultimately, deGrom grounded out to shortstop to end the Mets' best scoring threat.
"I can't let our ace be affected by other things," Callaway said. "He deserved to get two more innings pitched, and that's how it was."
Quipped deGrom, who is hitting a career-low .071: "My batting average definitely didn't make that decision."
As the first pitcher in history to post a sub-2.00 ERA with fewer than seven wins over his first 20 starts, deGrom is on an historic pace. He can become the first in baseball's modern era to throw at least 200 innings with an ERA below 2.00, and win fewer than 10 games. The only other big leaguer to do it was Henry Boyle, who won nine games for the 1886 St. Louis Maroons.
HE SAID IT
"I've been a New York Met my whole career. I have a good relationship with them and that's not my decision. I've enjoyed my time with them, yes." -- deGrom, on his preference as the non-waiver Trade Deadline nears
Perhaps more likely than deGrom to be traded this month is Zack Wheeler, whose strong two-month run has boosted his value higher than it has been in years. With many of the the same scouts who watched deGrom in attendance, Wheeler will take on left-hander Eric Lauer in a 7:10 p.m. ET game on Tuesday against the Padres at Citi Field.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.