The Rangers announced their signing Jacob deGrom for a five-year contract. That’s $185MM guaranteed, ESPN’s Jeff Basson reports (Twitter link) includes a full no-trade clause and a conditional option for the 2028 campaign that could total $222MM, according to Passan.
It’s the biggest move of the offseason to date and is Arlington’s latest massive free agent strike. The Rangers paid the trio more than half a billion dollars Corey Seager, Marcus Semien And John Gray Last winter. It is designed to lay the groundwork for a full-scale fight in 2023. The Rangers haven’t seen the strides they’d like from a win-loss perspective in 2022, largely due to Gray and a lackluster rotation behind him. Martin Perez. Texas has suggested it is ready to hit the top of the market to strengthen the biggest weak point on the roster. They’ve done so with a staggering five-year deal for the game’s best pitcher.
deGrom is one of the most talented arms of his generation. He fell in the ninth round of the 2010 draft and didn’t reach the majors until just shy of his 26th birthday in 2014, immediately establishing himself as one of the game’s best pitchers. DeGrom posted a 2.69 ERA in his first 22 starts to earn NL Rookie of the Year honors and begin a career as one of the league’s best hurlers.
The righty posted an ERA between 2.54 and 3.53 in each of the next three seasons, twice receiving under-vote MVP support. Already a borderline ace, he took his game to new heights in 2018. DeGrom pitched 217 innings with an MLB-best 1.70 ERA to secure his first Cy Young. The Mets inked him to a 120.5MM extension after that season. He repeatedly played as the senior circuit’s best pitcher, earning a second Cy Young with a 2.43 ERA over 204 innings. He had another dominant season in the abbreviated 2020 campaign and went down in ’21 with one of the best first halves in history.
Through his first 15 starts that year, the four-time All-Star posted a measly 1.08 ERA while striking out an incredible 45.1% of opposing hitters. He was plagued by a few minor health issues during the first few months, culminating in a stint on the injured list for elbow tightness during the All-Star break. While it wasn’t initially expected to lead to a lengthy layoff, deGrom could miss the rest of the season. That September, New York manager Sandy Alderson said deGrom was dealing with a low-grade tear in his UCL, an eyebrow-raising assertion considering right-hander Tommy John underwent surgery before his MLB debut. The pitcher denied it, calling his hamstring “feeling pretty good.”
After a full sabbatical, DeGrom was expected to return in 2022. Late in spring training, he felt some soreness between throws. His scapula was diagnosed with a stress reaction and resealed, and the injury cost him the first four months of last season. By the time he returned to the mound in early August, more than a full calendar year had passed.
With that kind of redundancy, one might have expected the dechrome to show some signs of rust. Instead, he returned to his peak self and immediately dominated the opposition again. The Stetson product averaged 98.9 MPH on his fastball and 92.6 MPH on his cutter/slider. He struck out 42.7% of opponents against a 3.3% walk percentage. Opposing hitters swung and missed at 21.1% of his total pitches; No other starter with 50+ innings had a swinging strike rate above 17%. He struck out eight in six over innings during his only playoff start against San Diego.
He had a three-homer trip in Atlanta to close out his season, kicking deGrom’s ERA up to 3.08 in his brief season, but there’s no doubt he can still perform at his peak if healthy. No pitcher on the planet is as dominant as deGrom on a starting basis.
A lot more to come.
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