NEW YORK -- From the moment the Mets debuted their current crop of starting pitchers earlier this decade, the question became how long the team could keep them all together. By and large, the Mets have avoided extension talks with their pitchers -- a sound strategy, in retrospect, considering the injury histories of most of them.
But the team briefly discussed an extension earlier this offseason with Jacob deGrom, its most successful starting pitcher in 2017. While the talks never progressed to a serious level, deGrom on Thursday indicated a willingness to keep them going.
"I think right now, we're taking it as it comes," deGrom said during a promotional appearance at the New York Boat Show in Manhattan. "I enjoy playing here. If they want to talk about something, if we can agree to something that we feel is fair, I'd be open to doing that. But as of right now, it looks like it's going to be a year-to-year thing."
Arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason, deGrom agreed to a $7.4 million deal for 2018 shortly after curbing extension talks. He is under team control for two additional seasons, with potential to see his salary balloon through the arbitration process.
For the Mets, an extension would guarantee cost certainty over the next two seasons. For deGrom, it would only be worthwhile if the Mets buy out at least one of his free agent years. He is currently eligible to become a free agent after the 2020 season, when he will be 32.
"You kind of bet on yourself at that point," deGrom said. "But if they want to extend past there, we'd be open to talk."
For now, deGrom is enjoying a fully healthy offseason, coming off career highs in starts (31), innings (201 1/3) and strikeouts (239). He plans to begin throwing off a mound again on Feb. 1, though he will leave Mets camp briefly in mid-February for the birth of his second child.
In recent weeks, deGrom has had multiple conversations with new Mets manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland, whose charge is to keep him, Noah Syndergaard and others healthy throughout the 2018 season. Those two, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler have never all made a turn together in the Mets' rotation.
"How many of the actual guys who were supposed to start last year started the games they were supposed to start? Not very many," deGrom said. "So you get those guys back healthy, and you've got Jay Bruce and you get [Michael] Conforto back, I think we're going to be in a good position.
"The plan was to contend last year, but with injuries we weren't able to. Now you get all these guys back, I think that's the plan again this year is to contend. I'm looking forward to seeing everybody in Spring Training, and hoping everyone's healthy."
Perhaps the most noticeable difference in 2018 for deGrom, however, will be the absence of his signature long hair. On a whim, deGrom cut his locks a day after the regular season ended. He has since cut it again and has no plans to let it grow again. Just the other day, deGrom came across a picture of his old self on his phone.
"I was like, 'How did I even have that long hair?'" deGrom said. "Honestly, I was just kind of tired of it."
But he does not expect long-haired teammate Syndergaard to follow suit.
"He's keeping his, I'm sure," deGrom said with a laugh.