Mar 26

It’s About Time: Mets Agree To Terms With Jacob DeGrom

DE GROM: Finally.  (AP)

                                           DE GROM: Finally. (AP)

First of all, please let me apologize for taking the off-season off. I have been going through a lot lately, including surgery on my wrist from a car accident and a move. On top of that, I have unsuccessfully attempted to get somebody to redesign this website, but did receive a couple of be-careful emails. So, I’m trying again, if you think you can help me in a redesign, please email me at jdelcos@yahoo.com.

I planned to be up and running Opening Day, but couldn’t ignore the Mets finally, I MEAN FINALLY, agreeing to terms with Jacob deGrom on a new deal. Let’s face it, the Wilpons had to be smart enough to anticipate the gloom that would have set on Citi Field for Opening Day, and all future games, untl they got this done.

The Mets agreed to a five-year, $137.5-million extension today with last year’s National League Cy Young Award winner, that could climb to seven years and $170 million if all the options are picked up.

DeGrom also gets a full no-trade clause and can opt out of the contract in 2022. DeGrom was scheduled to make $17 million this season and was also under contract for 2020.

Given deGrom is 30, has already had Tommy John surgery and the Mets didn’t have to do anything for two years, one has to wonder their motivation for getting this done now, especially since Major League Baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2021 season. By doing this now they forfeit the opportunity to trade him.

 Given the Mets’ recent disastrous history in signing $100-plus-million, long-term contracts – Johan Santana, David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes all sustained serious injuries and the deals could be termed flops – one can appreciate their apprehension in signing another.

DeGrom has yet to comment on the new deal, and his last statement was last Saturday when he said: ”Honestly, I really have been trying not to think about it. Yeah, I said I wanted to get something done, but it’s getting close to Opening Day and I think my focus is on that right now.”

DeGrom is scheduled to start the Mets’ opener Thursday in Washington. The Mets have closed their Florida portion of spring training and are on a goodwill trip to Syracuse, New York, to help sell tickets for their Triple-A affiliate, which relocated from Las Vegas.

However, teammate, pitcher Noah Syndergaard, hasn’t been shy in vocalizing his displeasure, first in the Syracuse trip, and second in the Mets’ dragging their feet on deGrom.

”Jake is the best pitcher in baseball right now,” Syndergaard said. ”I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth and I want to keep him happy so when it becomes time to reach free agency, he stays on our side and pitches for the Mets. I just think they should quit all this fuss and pay the man already.”

Of course, when you’re talking about a $137.5-million contract, that’s easier said than done, and the delay only raised more questions.

DeGrom’s previous agent was Brodie Van Wagenen of Creative Artists Agency, who made the controversial leap in becoming the Mets’ general manager. DeGrom is currently handled by Jeff Berry. Was signing deGrom early a reward, or part of the agreement, in bringing in Van Wagenen?

If it was, nobody is saying, and Van Wagenen is already under fire from his former colleagues, notably Scott Boras, who raised the conflict-of-interest issue.

”The Boras Corporation stands for a total commitment to players, and while I have been offered many opportunities with teams, I would never violate the trust that I have with any player and that is very important to what I do,” Boras said.

”I am an attorney and I want [players] to tell me everything and a lot of these things are confidential, they are personal, and if I went to work for a different employer, I would have to divulge all that information because I have to do my job for that other employer I made a commitment to.”

One has to wonder if deGrom said anything to Van Wagenen during their client-attorney-relationship, such as health issues, money issues, or commitment issues that might have delayed negotiations.

It’s a fair question, and one that probably gave the Wilpons more of a reason to pause than anything Syndergaard – whose contract will also expire in a few years – might have said or any chatter on talk-radio.

Last year, DeGrom had arguably one of the best seasons of any pitcher since Bob Gibson in 1968 with a 1.70 ERA and compiling 269 strikeouts in 217 innings, and the Mets have been under considerable pressure to re-sign him to keep the well-publicized, but the underproducing rotation of Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Stephen Matz together.

They are also facing pressure in competing with the Yankees for New York City’s attention and don’t want to be caught in the wave of teams signing their potential free agents to long-term deals, such as Chris Sale in Boston.

Even with deGrom, the Mets have a long way to go before they can be considered serious contenders in the National League’s Eastern Division, despite the additions of closer Edwin Diaz, catcher Wilson Ramos and second baseman Robinson Cano, they have a myriad of issues that need to be overcome.

However, they can’t take the first step toward contention without signing their best player. Perhaps, that was their greatest motivation.

Dec 20

Just How Much Better Are The Mets?

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen vowed the Mets would compete in 2019, and his early moves dictated his seriousness in following through with that promise. Trading for closer Edwin Diaz and second baseman Robinson Cano, with whom the Mets will be on the hook for roughly $100 million remaining on the latter’s contract was indeed a big splash.

In addition, the Mets signed catcher Wilson Ramos to fill a significant void, outfielder Rajai Davis to a minor league contract to compete in center field, and brought back former closer Jeurys Familia to fill a set-up role. Combined, they are appreciably better than the team that finished 22 games under .500 last year, but not close enough to be the contender Van Wagenen hopes.

However, the three teams that finished ahead of them in the National League East last season also improved. Atlanta added third baseman Josh Donaldson and brought back catcher Brian McCann; Washington added lefty starter Patrick Corbin, but doesn’t appear to have a chance to bring back Bryce Harper; and Philadelphia added outfielder Andrew McCutcheon and second baseman Jean Segura, and will host Manny Machado today. They are also reportedly interested in Harper.

Should the Phillies land both Machado and Harper it would make them the odds-on favorites to win the East, ahead of the Braves and Nationals, with the Mets slated for fourth place regardless of what they do, and the Marlins last, despite whom they bring in for catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Ramos was a better signing then Realmuto because it enabled the Mets to keep prospects outfielder Brandon Nimmo and shortstop Amed Rosario, or possibly Noah Syndergaard. Dealing Syndergaard was never going to happen, but not surrendering players was essential to the Mets, who are thin in major league ready talent.

I wrote at the time of the Cano-Diaz trade, which enabled the Mets to shed the remaining $26 million left on Jay Bruce’s contract (that would amount to only one year of Cano’s deal). I didn’t like the trade – still don’t – but added we had to wait on the rest of Van Wagenen’s offseason to draw a full conclusion.

I’m not crazy about bringing back Familia, who will go into the set-up role. I would have preferred they make a serious run at Andrew Miller, which would fill the void of a left-handed reliever. Miller was off last year because of inflammation in his right knee which accounted for two stints on the disabled list, including one of 60 days.

Philadelphia is also a player for Miller, as are a half-dozen other teams. With the money earmarked for Cano and Familia, the Mets are on the outside looking in on Miller, who worked 96.2 innings over the past two seasons.

They still have a myriad of questions: Ramos has a long history of injuries; Peter Alfonso is untested at first base; Cano is 36 and on a downward slide; Rosario has offensive issues; Yoenis Cespedes will be out until at least the All-Star break; the bullpen is still thin despite Ruiz and Familia; and the rotation, outside of Jacob deGrom, is more potential than proven performance.

Van Wagenen has talked a good game so far and the Mets have been on their fair share of back pages but have won nothing, yet. The Mets seem more inclined to make lower profile deals than a blockbuster trade or sign a major free agent.

What the Mets have now is what they’ll likely go into spring training with and that isn’t good enough to contend, which we already knew.

Nov 27

Adding Machado, Harper Or Cano Won’t Be Enough To Lift The Mets

New York sports-radio is all for the Mets signing Manny Machado, but that would be one of the worst things the organization could do. Then again, New York sports-talk radio is for a lot of things that don’t make sense.

Signing both Machado and Bryce Harper would set the franchise back over a decade, by which time all those young, vaunted arms would likely be gone.

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen vowed the Mets would be competitive this season, but adding Machado or Harper won’t make that happen because that expensive a power bat doesn’t begin to fill all the holes facing them.

There are numerous questions surrounding the rotation beginning with Jacob deGrom who is coming off a historic season. The thing about historic seasons is they usually happen once. While it is doubtful deGrom will duplicate his 1.70 ERA, but it would be great if he won more than 10 games even if it means having a higher ERA.

Zack Wheeler demonstrated breakout signs, but can he continue to progress? So far, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard have been an uncashed check regarding their potential. Will it ever happen for either of them? The New York papers have been loaded with articles about the Mets shopping Syndergaard, but their asking price is exorbitant.

That leaves another rotation question: Who will be the fifth starter?

The bullpen needs to be completely rebuilt, which means at least six more questions.

The Mets’ best catcher last season regarding defense, game calling and controlling the running game was Devon Mesaraco, but there’s been no mention of bringing him back. There has been talk of trading for the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto, but Miami wants a haul in return. Kevin Plawecki figures to come back but the odds are long for Travis d’Arnaud.

First base is another wide-open position as Dominick Smith hasn’t proven worthy of getting the position long-term. We know the Mets aren’t sold on Wilmer Flores. The Diamondbacks will listen to offers for Paul Goldschmidt. I’d rather have him than Realmuto, but he’s also going to cost plenty, both in terms of prospects and salary.

Seattle is actively trying to trade second baseman Robinson Cano, and in hope of finding a sucker reached out to the Mets. Cano is 36, coming off a PED suspension and with $120 million remaining on his contract through 2023. Cano also has a reputation from his years with the Yankees for not hustling. That hasn’t changed much from his years in Seattle. Do you want that kind of player on the Mets?

Trading for Cano would be a catastrophic deal of monumental proportions, especially since second base isn’t a priority. Personally, I’d rather have Jeff McNeil, who hustles and has a high on-base percentage.

Third base belongs to Todd Frazier unless the Mets can do better, and that doesn’t mean Machado, whose, ”I’m not Johnny Hustle,” quote during the playoffs has come back to haunt him. The only thing worse than saying something so stupid was his trying to walk it back. If you say something like that. at least own up to it.

The Mets are also open for a right-handed hitting outfielder with Yoenis Cespedes out until at least the All-Star break.

Cano at $120 million and Machado and Harper at a reported $300 million each represent a lot of money which can go a long way at answering all their questions, which I have at least 16 at last count.

If the Mets are going to sign anybody to a long-term mega contract, it will go to deGrom, and even that won’t help them. Competitive isn’t what the Mets are going to be in 2019. Not even close.

Oct 30

Van Wagenen And Wilpon Gloss Over Conflict Of Interest Issue

Both former-agent and new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon glossed over the conflict-of-interest issue at today’s Citi Field press conference.

As a player agent for Creative Artists Agency, Van Wageman’s responsibility was to negotiate the most lucrative contract for his clients. As the 13th general manager in Mets’ history, his responsibility is to build a team, which isn’t always in the best interests of the players he’s worked for over the past 18 years.

It was one of the first questions asked this afternoon, and before Van Wagenen could answer, Wilpon interrupted and claimed he spoke with the Commissioner’s Office and Major League Players Association chief Tony Clark and said, ”we have provisions in Brodie’s contract to deal with any conflicts of interest.”

What those provisions are, neither Wilpon nor Van Wagenen would say. Van Wagenen, who, as expected, appeared polished and highly professional, said: ”The goals between players and management are more in line than people think.”

How so, Van Wagenen wouldn’t elaborate, leading to speculation there’s still believed to be a cobra-mongoose relationship between the two sides.

This summer, Van Wagenen said the Mets should sign his top client Jacob deGrom to a long-term extension and reiterated that today: “I believe Jacob deGrom is an incredible talent and I hope to keep him for a long time.”

As deGrom’s agent, the pitcher undoubtedly shared highly confidential information with his agent, such as how long he plans to say; what he would sign for; his problems with management and manager Mickey Callaway; issues with his teammates; and issues with playing in New York, all which the player wouldn’t want Mets management and ownership to know.

However, Van Wagenen is now part of Mets’ management, and since he can’t un-hear something, what will he do now?

Oct 29

It’s Official: Mets Name Agent Brodie Van Wagenen As New GM

The New York Mets are rebuilding again and in a most unusual way. The Mets announced today their next general manager will be Brodie Van Wagenen, who is the agent for Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Cespedes.

Van Wagenen, the son-in-law of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong, will be introduced Tuesday afternoon in a Citi Field press conference. Van Wagenen beat out former Texas and Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin, and Tampa Bay senior vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom.

The Mets get points for creativity, but if this doesn’t work out there’s no telling how far back the organization will fall. Especially if things fall south with deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

”Brodie is an extremely knowledgeable, creative, progressive and collaborative leader, who I’m confident will lead us toward sustainable success,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said in a statement released by the team. ”I’m very excited for our fans to hear and see the direction Brodie outlined for us.”

Wilpon’s father, Fred, was reportedly behind Melvin, but ultimately was sold on Van Wagenen, citing his character.

”Jeff brought forward an array of candidates and we all agreed that Brodie’s high character, blend of analytics, scouting and development ideas illustrate why he will be successful in this role,” Wilpon Sr., said.

Van Wagenen is an unknown commodity and admits this will be a challenge.

”I’m beyond excited and motivated to take on this new challenge,” said Van Wagenen, who has a reported four-year deal. ”I want to thank Fred and Jeff for believing in my vision and abilities. I look forward to beginning the progress of getting the Mets to contend for a championship year after year.”

Van Wagenen’s first challenge is to get the Wilpons to spend, notably on his former client, deGrom. During the All-Star break, Van Wagenen said the Mets should offer deGrom a pricey extension. Now, he’ll find himself sitting across the table with one of his former colleagues at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) arguing against a landmark deal.

That change in Van Wagenen’s responsibilities at the negotiating table also raises the potential of a conflict of interest, and that concerns the Major League Baseball Players Association. 

”I won’t tell you how many calls or how many texts I have gotten,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said at the World Series over the weekend. ”I will simply suggest to you that our membership is paying attention.”

So are a lot of people in the industry as this is more than just hiring a new general manager, but the Mets taking a tremendous gamble.