NEW YORK -- There is a chance, however slim, that when Jacob deGrom walked off the Citi Field mound to a standing ovation in the seventh inning on Wednesday, he did so for the last time as a Met. There is a chance that some club will bowl the Mets
NEW YORK -- There is a chance, however slim, that when Jacob deGrom walked off the Citi Field mound to a standing ovation in the seventh inning on Wednesday, he did so for the last time as a Met. There is a chance that some club will bowl the Mets over with a franchise-changing offer for their best starting pitcher.
For contenders, it's easy to see the allure. When the Mets finished off their 7-3 win over the Cardinals, deGrom improved to 7-0 with a 1.51 ERA over his last seven starts. He has 50 strikeouts, 10 walks and a 0.82 ERA over that stretch. Even on Wednesday, when he knew early that he was lacking his best swing-and-miss stuff, he gave the Mets 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball.
"He's a top-level pitcher," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We know that. Guys were trying to fight and get anything that caught more of the plate, but he wasn't making a lot of mistakes."
If not for a dropped third strike in the seventh, deGrom might have completed at least seven innings for the seventh straight outing. As it was, Luke Voit capitalized on his new life, ripping an RBI double into the gap to chase deGrom, who allowed seven hits and a walk, striking out three. He kept the hood on his blue-and-orange boxer's robe as he delivered his postgame address.
"I noticed early on that I didn't have my best stuff, so I knew it was gonna be kind of a battle," deGrom said. "I took the approach of, 'Here it is, see if you can hit it.'"
By and large, the Cardinals could not, which makes them similar to every other team deGrom has faced this side of the summer solstice. Since boosting his ERA to a season-high 4.75 on June 6, deGrom, statistically, has been one of the top five pitchers in baseball.
That has made him attractive to a glut of contenders looking for postseason-tested pitchers who can carry them to a championship. Any team acquiring deGrom would retain his rights for three years after this one, making him a far more attractive trade chip than Addison Reed, Jay Bruce or any of the other players the Mets are trying to deal prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Mets could expect a treasure chest in return for deGrom -- if only they could stomach the possibility of losing their homegrown star.
From an operations perspective, there is merit to trading deGrom. Such clubs as the Astros and Yankees, rich in prospects and in need of starting pitching, could instantly fortify the Mets' farm system. In trading Jose Quintana to the Cubs last week, the White Sox received one elite prospect and three useful ones. For deGrom, one of the best pitchers in baseball the past four seasons, rival scouts believe the Mets could expect at least two to three elite prospects -- and possibly a good bit more than that.
Of course, trading deGrom, even for an overpay, would undermine the Mets' ability to compete in 2018, which is why, when asked about it recently, general manager Sandy Alderson replied, "I'd say that sort of trade is exceedingly unlikely. What would we do without Jake deGrom next year?"
It's a question many Mets fans don't want to ponder. And it's one deGrom is doing his best to ignore.
"I guess it's a good thing if other teams want you," he said. "But I've got a job to do here, and that's my main focus right now."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.