One could make the case that Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. He leads all starting pitchers in ERA, is second in FIP and is sixth in strikeouts. Over his last 10 starts, deGrom has pitched to a ridiculous 0.87 ERA. Yet, the Mets are just 2-8 in those starts and 5-9 overall in his starts. For someone who is among the league leaders in nearly every pitching category (except wins, that is), Jacob deGrom deserves more support than he is getting.
The debate over whether to trade deGrom has commenced. Given the Mets’ absurd inability to win when he pitches and with their season seemingly a lost cause in June, the idea is not that crazy-sounding. There are good arguments on both sides, with no real “right” answer. So let’s hear them:
A trade would make sense, in theory. A pitcher of deGrom’s quality (and contract) would bring in a huge return. So why not trade deGrom when his value is at an all-time high? The return for deGrom would help the franchise retool its depleted farm system.
The Mets currently have one prospect in MLB’s top 100, at number 100. A trade of deGrom would all but certainly bring in a return of top-level prospects to aid in a rebuild, should the Mets choose that path.
At the moment, it also seems as if the Mets are undeserving of their ace. Be it bullpen meltdowns, anemic offensive performances, or both, deGrom has constantly been let down by his teammates. Having a pitcher with 1.55 ERA and a losing record when he starts is both impressive and pathetic.
It would make sense to trade him to a team that would be able to better support his efforts. DeGrom surely would not mind a few more wins, so a trade could also work for him on the field. I would not blame deGrom for wanting greener pastures. I cannot imagine the toll it takes on him, mentally. I get enough stress from just watching the team, it must be infinitely worse seeing his own talent wasted by his teammates.
A trade would not be easy to pull off, as it is nearly impossible to get a return worthy of deGrom. Only a few teams have deep enough farm systems that could piece together a package that could nab him. Some of these teams, like the Padres, White Sox and Blue Jays, are not suitors as they are not currently in a position to win. Other teams with well-rated systems who are contending like the Yankees and Braves, would have a hard time getting deGrom, considering that they are the cross-town and division rivals (the Mets couldn’t even agree to trade Jay Bruce or Neil Walker to the Yankees).
Sure, a team like the Dodgers, who have a plethora of highly-rated prospects and pitching injuries, could trade for him. But even if they get the desired return, there is no guarantee that any prospect turns into a player with the exceptional talent of deGrom.
DeGrom is inarguably one of baseball’s best pitchers and it is not like he is the only Met with real talent. They have a solid core, anchored by deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario and Yoenis Cespedes. With enough good investments in free agents, the Mets can put together the makings of a contender without having to trade deGrom to build up assets.
The Mets can build around deGrom, should they choose this path. In theory, it isn’t that hard to do, if they do it right. That, however, is a different question.
The Mets should not trade Jacob deGrom. The Mets should never trade Jacob deGrom. The cons outweigh the pros. DeGrom is simply too good to be traded. The chances of a return ever being truly be worthy of him is slim to none.
It is worth mentioning that there is no reason to believe the Mets would properly build around deGrom and company. It is unlikely that the team would break the bank for someone like Manny Machado or spend actual money on their bullpen. Ownership is notoriously cheap and that hampers their ability to truly build around their core.
This brings me to my main reason for not trading Jacob deGrom: I like him. Over the last few years he has turned into my favorite Met of all time. I attended his Major League debut where (fittingly) he lost a 1-0 game to the Yankees, despite seven excellent innings. We watched his electric All Star performance and his domination of the Dodgers in the NLDS in 2015, en route to the Mets’ 2015 National League Pennant. I would be incredibly sad to see him go.
The title of “franchise player” does not have any real baseball value, nor does it make up for the incompetence among the team’s higher-ups. But Jacob deGrom makes some Mets games worth watching, like any franchise player does, and watching Mets games is something I like to do, no matter how ugly or frustrating the product.
Unfortunately for deGrom, he will not be a free agent until he is 32, meaning his best chance to get paid likely lies with a contract extension. If the Mets decide to extend deGrom before he hits free agency, it would be good faith move that he more than deserves. Not only should they not trade him, they should extend him and officially anoint him as the cornerstone of the franchise. And maybe, you know, build around him.
Keeping deGrom could ultimately prove to be foolish if the team fails to supply the support he needs. I would not be surprised if that happened, given the serious problems with ownership. But no Mets fan wants to sit through a full rebuild and no Mets fan wants to watch deGrom pitch for another team. I may be selfish, foolish or stubborn, but I know what I want: the brilliant Jacob deGrom to be a Met for life. Even if turns out to not be for the best.
Thoughts from Logan Barer:
I am in agreement with Liam here. Finding pitchers this good is impossible, and any team willing to let them go for anything less than a king’s ransom is foolish. 41 years and one day after the Mets traded Tom Seaver to the Reds, that lesson rings as true as ever.
Yes, the Mets are currently playing atrocious baseball, but they have objectively good talent overall and are a few bloops and blasts away from turning it around. The Mets should not act in haste, and trading deGrom would be just that.