Chris Young, the head of baseball operations for the Texas Rangers, called Bruce Bochy on Thursday with news that stunned the new manager. "Jacob wants to come with us," Young said.
Bochy's response: "Are you kidding me?"
Bochy knew the Rangers were going to be aggressive in their negotiations with Jacob deGrom, and he had been impressed by the pitcher in a Zoom meeting with deGrom and his wife, Stacey Harris, in the days before Thanksgiving. But Bochy had assumed that the process would play out for days and perhaps weeks to come as deGrom considered the possibility of leaving the New York Mets, the organization that had drafted him in 2010.
Instead, deGrom made his decision quickly, agreeing to terms on a five-year, $185 million million contract without even giving the Mets an opportunity to present a final offer, based on interviews with a dozen sources involved in deGrom's free agency. According to sources, Mets general manager Billy Eppler learned about deGrom's deal with the Rangers on Friday evening, just minutes before the news broke -- and more than a day after deGrom had closed his deal with Texas.
For some in the Mets' organization, that last bit of silent treatment from deGrom was confirmation of what they had suspected even during the season: that deGrom, the Cy Young Award-winning pitcher who warmed up to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man" before his starts, probably preferred to pitch somewhere other than New York City.
In the end, the Mets' contract offer to deGrom -- something in the range of $115 million over three years -- fell far short of the Rangers' deal, which includes a full no-trade clause and a conditional option for 2028 that could drive the value of the contract to $222 million. ("Really, it's a six-year deal," one evaluator said.) The Atlanta Braves -- a team that may well have been deGrom's first choice -- also engaged in discussions with deGrom's representatives, but stepped away as the bidding spiraled upward in recent days.
The Mets' front office had no intention of offering anything close to where the winning bid landed, not for a pitcher who over the past two seasons had spent more days on the injured list than on the active roster. In the end, there was some relief in the Mets' organization that they will not bear the risk of a whopper deGrom contract, or the inherent complications attached to a pitcher who has missed so much time with a range of problems.
Throughout deGrom's career with the Mets, he was a respected teammate, especially for how he handled a chronic lack of run support. He would allow just a run or two and the Mets would lose, and deGrom's message to reporters was consistent: His job was to outpitch his opponent that day, and if he failed to do that, well, he needed to be better. DeGrom posted a 2.05 ERA in 64 starts in 2018 and 2019 and won just 21 games, but he never blamed the offense or the defense. He was revered for his competitiveness