deGrom says he'll opt out after '22, hopes to stay with Mets

March 14th, 2022

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Fully healthy following an offseason of rest, Mets ace said definitively on Monday that he intends to trigger the opt-out in his contract after the 2022 season.

The decision won’t necessarily affect deGrom’s ability to be a Met for life, as he said he plans to be “in constant contact” with team officials after the season. Still, it at least opens the possibility that deGrom could pitch somewhere other than Queens in 2023 and beyond.

“That’s the business side of baseball,” deGrom said. “As a player, you build in opt-outs, and that’s the business side. But for me, I don’t want that to be any distraction. I’m excited about this team. I’ve said it before, I love being a Met. I think it would be really cool to be one for my entire career, but the plan is to exercise that [opt-out].”

deGrom hasn’t pitched at all since last July 7, when a bout of elbow inflammation sidelined him through the remainder of the year. He threw off a bullpen mound several times in September, however, and said at the time that he could have returned to game action had the Mets been in contention. After the season, deGrom worked as normal, adding in mound sessions as Major League Baseball’s lockout progressed. Monday, he threw a bullpen alongside new teammate Max Scherzer.

“I treated the offseason the same and prepared the same way and everything felt good,” deGrom said. “I’ll maybe just try to stay on top of things a little more if little things come up, stay on top of them, because there’s times where you’ll not say anything and it’ll be a snowball effect. The goal is to go out there and make as many starts as I can.”

That means a full workload, beginning on Opening Day. Mets manager Buck Showalter confirmed that obvious bit of scheduling on Monday, publicly giving deGrom the April 7 nod over Scherzer. In Washington, deGrom will become the first Mets pitcher to start four consecutive Opening Days since Dwight Gooden from 1988-91.

The assignment also lines up deGrom to resume what has been, outside of his injury issues, a historic run on the mound. Over the past four seasons, deGrom has produced a 1.94 ERA with 774 strikeouts in 581 innings. Various physical issues began popping up in 2020 and intensified the following summer, when deGrom missed the final 2 1/2 months of the campaign. At the time, team president Sandy Alderson said that deGrom had a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow; deGrom subsequently insisted on multiple occasions that his UCL is fully intact.

“Right now, we’re treating him as you would a normal starter, with certainly some knowledge of things that have gone on in the past and what to look for,” Showalter said. “We’re leaning on him. It’s important for our club, and Jake’s a big part of that.”

deGrom’s ability to remain healthy will have a significant impact on his future earnings. If the two-time Cy Young Award winner changes his mind and chooses not to opt out, the Mets will owe him $68 million over the next two seasons, with a $32.5 million team option for ’24. But if deGrom submits a strong season and then opts out, he could theoretically add years onto his contract at significant money. Doing so would hardly be unprecedented; the Dodgers extended Clayton Kershaw amid similar circumstances following the ’18 season, and the Nationals re-signed Stephen Strasburg after his opt-out in ’19.

For deGrom, similar conversations will not take place until the autumn, as both he and team owner Steve Cohen have now stated.

“We’re going to play the season and then we’ll figure that out, and Jake will do what he does,” Cohen said on Sunday. “We love Jake, and we’ll figure it out at some point.”