deGrom sets deadline on extension talks

Mets have until Opening Day to sign ace long term

February 12th, 2019

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- If the Mets intend to offer a contract extension, they'll need to do it soon.

deGrom's representatives have set an Opening Day deadline to complete an extension, a source confirmed Tuesday, giving the sides six more weeks to work something out. deGrom has let the Mets know that he won't negotiate during the season, though it's possible he and the team could reopen talks next winter.

When asked Tuesday about deGrom's deadline, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen initially declined comment, before holding an impromptu press conference to describe Opening Day as a logical end point for talks.

"There's no reason for a distraction to carry into the regular season, and we will continue to have dialogue over the course of this spring, and see where these discussions lead," Van Wagenen said. "I think it's [in] everyone's best interest, so that the focus once the season starts is on the performance of the team. I think everybody feels like we've got a chance to play meaningful games right out of the gate, and we don't want to have anything stand in the way."

Entering 2019, deGrom has two years remaining under team control. He is making $17 million this season -- a $9.6 million increase from his salary a year ago, which is a record for arbitration-eligible players -- and would be due another raise in 2020.

For much of the past year, deGrom has expressed his desire to a sign a long-term deal, though he began acknowledging toward the end of last season that it might not happen. If the Mets wait until next winter, deGrom will be a year from free agency, theoretically giving him less incentive to eschew the open market in favor of an in-house deal.

"I think anybody is open to an extension if it's right for you and your family," deGrom said in November. "Nothing is guaranteed in this game until you sign that deal, or hit free agency and sign a deal there. You just have to sit down and, at the end of the day, look at what's right for you and your family and kind of make a decision based upon that.

"I really do enjoy playing in New York. The fans have treated me great. I enjoy taking the mound at Citi Field in front of them and it's rare that a guy spends his career with one team. If that was something that they wanted to do, and me and [my wife] Stacey felt like it was the right move for us, then we'd be willing to definitely explore that."

Since deGrom made those comments, he has personally had no contact with the Mets regarding a contract extension. His former agent, Van Wagenen, is now the Mets' GM, and deGrom's current representatives at CAA, Jeff Berry and Matt Ricatto, met with Mets officials at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas to gauge interest in a deal. Van Wagenen said the sides have since been in communication, though a source cautioned that talks have not grown serious.

"Jacob, as I've said many times before, we care about him," Van Wagenen said. "He knows we care about him. We know how important he is to the organization. And I think it will be my job to make sure there's no strained relationship no matter what takes place as we continue to move forward."

For the Mets and CAA, six weeks should be plenty of time to talk, with Spring Training often a breeding ground for long-term contracts. Two of the most recent extensions the Mets completed, with Jon Niese in 2012 and in 2015, occurred during Spring Training. The Mets also conducted substantive spring talks with and on extensions that never happened.

deGrom offers a different sort of challenge, coming off a season in which he went 10-9 with a 1.70 ERA in 217 innings to win the National League Cy Young Award. Comps for deGrom include , who signed a six-year, $140-million contract with the Nationals this winter, and , who inked a seven-year, $175-million extension with the Nats last year. While deGrom is already 30 years old, making him older than either of those two, he has experienced more recent success on the mound.
"Jacob deGrom clearly has established himself as the best pitcher in baseball," Van Wagenen said after taking the GM job in October. "Make no mistake, I believe Jacob deGrom is an incredible talent and I hope to keep him for a long time."