Imagine the flood of tears in Flushing.
The reaction to Atlanta stealing the Mets’ crown jewel would be glorious. It honestly may be worth the money just to see it happen. However, despite the enticing proposition, the Braves can’t sign deGrom just to spite Mets fans.
Regardless of the rumors, it’s hard to believe Atlanta is the favorite for the perennial Cy Young contender. According to SpotRac, DeGrom’s current market value is around $42 million per year. He’s projected to sign a three year, $125 million contract.
The yearly average would dwarf the $23 million given to Josh Donaldson in 2018. Currently, that is the highest the Braves have paid a player in a single season. Would President of Baseball Operations Alex Anthopoulos sanction such an expensive move? Would ownership?
The Atlanta Braves should not sign free agent Jacob deGrom
If the Braves re-up with Swanson, his new contract will eat a significant chunk of Atlanta’s free agent cash. Atlanta Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk openly spoke of the team having a top five payroll in the future; however, it would remain out of character for the Bravos to splash multiple $100 million-plus contracts in free agency. deGrom would certainly cost over $100 million unless they were somehow able to get him to agree to a one or two year deal.
If the Braves don’t re-sign Swanson and pursue a cheaper option at shortstop, there are other holes in the roster. Atlanta left fielders batted .238/.285/.431 this season. Marcell Ozuna and Eddie Rosario are still on the roster, but neither were prolific at the plate or in the field. The Braves might retain Adam Duvall, but he struggled prior to his injury.
In summary, Atlanta needs to address other positions more than they need deGrom in his current form.
Is deGrom still deGrom?
Jacob deGrom’s development since reaching the majors is astounding. After four seasons as a sublime starting pitcher, deGrom morphed into Darkseid on the diamond. From 2018 to 2022, he posted a 2.13 ERA with 12.98 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. His 2018 performance was one of the dominant pitching seasons in the history of the leagues.
deGrom was the best pitcher in the game over the last couple of years, but he didn’t pitch much due to injuries. 2019 was the last season he threw over 100 innings. In the last three years, he’s totaled only 38 starts and 224.1 innings pitched. Elbow inflammation, shoulder problems, and more have plagued the two-time Cy Young winner.
Injury woes aside, deGrom also demonstrated ineffectiveness in the latter stage of this season. He allowed 14 runs in his final four regular season starts; hitters slugged .519 and posted a .798 OPS against him. deGrom bounced back with a solid postseason start against the Padres, so his poor finish might be an anomaly. But what if it’s a sign of things to come?
Whoever signs Jacob deGrom will get one of the best pitchers of this generation. They’ll also be paying top dollar for an oft-injured, aging arm that was ineffective at season’s end. The Braves’ money could be better utilized elsewhere.
If it worked, the reward would be great; if it didn’t, the result could be crippling.