Jacob deGrom, one of the most dominant starters of his era, signed a five-year deal with the Texas Rangers on Friday night, the first major move of the baseball offseason. The announcement, made by the team, came with baseball’s winter meetings set to open Sunday in San Diego.
DeGrom’s deal reportedly includes an option for a sixth year that could push its total value over $200 million, per ESPN.
The move is the latest splashy move for the Rangers, who opened their new ballpark, Globe Life Field, in 2020. They committed more than $500 million combined on veterans Marcus Semien and Corey Seager at this time last year, hoping to jump-start a rebuild. Their season ended in relative disappointment, with the dismissal of manager Chris Woodward and a fourth-place finish in the American League West — a division long dominated by their in-state rival, the Houston Astros.
But even before landing deGrom, General Manager Chris Young was pushing hard to help the team jump into contention. He hired three-time World Series winner Bruce Bochy out of retirement to manage. He appointed former Red Sox bench coach Will Venable — long viewed as a strong future manager — Bochy’s deputy. He plucked former Rangers pitcher Mike Maddux from St. Louis to become pitching coach.
Now the Rangers add deGrom to the top of a rotation that already includes Martin Perez, who was one of two players in baseball to accept a qualifying offer this year, and Jon Gray, the man Texas promised $56 million over four years a year ago.
DeGrom’s departure leaves the Mets with a gaping hole for a team that entered free agency with major concerns about its rotation. Their Nos. 3 and 4 starters from 2022, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker, both remain unsigned. Scherzer, 38, has battled injuries in his past three postseason showings but remains the team’s anchor.
The market gives them options. American League Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and powerful lefty Carlos Rodón are available. But the Mets aren’t the only team looking for help atop their rotation — the Yankees and Dodgers, among others, are in the same hunt, and now there’s one fewer ace on whom to bid.
In betting on deGrom, who will turn 35 in June, the Rangers took a chance on a pitcher who has looked absolutely untouchable at times over the past few seasons but who has barely made enough appearances to assuage concerns about committing to him long term. He hasn’t thrown more than 92 innings in a season since 2019 and has thrown more than 200 innings just three times in his career. Verlander, who is five years older, has thrown 200 innings in 12 seasons.
But when deGrom is right, he does very little wrong. Though he has made just 38 starts over the past three seasons, he has pitched to a 2.05 ERA and averaged 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings in those outings. So in betting on deGrom, the Rangers also inject the kind of elite pitching talent they haven’t been able to cultivate in quite some time to the top of a rotation that hasn’t often ranked among MLB’s best.