As the New York Daily News reported recently, GM Sandy Alderson has the task of trying to control the rotation for longer than their current projected arbitration years.
The idea of a contract extension is that a team offers guaranteed money through a players’ arbitration years in exchange for the first few years of the players’ free agency. Usually the player gets less money than he ideally would get on the open market, but more than he would in arbitration. They are assured that money whether he suffers a long-term injury or his level of play drops off. For a team built around pitching and these young arms in particular (and a team whose farm system is light on top pitching prospects) these decisions are going to be an increasingly important part of shaping the franchise’s future over the next few years.
Alderson said he would not rule out talking to a pitcher’s agent about an extension during the 2017 season, but indicated it was not something he was contemplating before the Mets get to Port St. Lucie.
“I am not going to say we would do or we are not going to do it,” Alderson said of looking to lock up one of their talented young arms long term during the season, “but heading into spring training, it’s not likely going to happen.”
Matt Harvey will be the first of the Mets’ young arms who will test the team’s future plans. He is in his second year of arbitration eligibility and under the Mets’ control for just two more seasons. This is really the last winter the Mets could expect any possible value in an extension. After an All-Star season in 2013, he missed 2014 after Tommy John surgery. He pitched 218 innings, a record for a pitcher in his first season back from the elbow surgery, going 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 2015. He struggled most of the 2016 season with command and was shut down in early July after surgery to address the circulation issues associated with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
Jacob deGrom, who was given an extra year of arbitration through the Super-2 designation this winter, would be the ideal candidate for the Mets to discuss an extension with this winter.
DeGrom had a disappointing 2016, going 7-6 with a 3.04 ERA, after a Rookie of the Year season in 2014 and a stellar 14-8 (2.54 ERA) season in 2015. He had Tommy John early in his minor league career and was shut down early in 2016 to have surgery to move the ulnar nerve in his elbow.
Harvey said earlier this month that the surgery had relieved the issues of numbness in his fingers and he is seeing results as he works through his offseason throwing program. DeGrom was still waiting to begin his throwing program earlier this month when he spoke to reporters. Older than Harvey, deGrom will be 32 when he finally reaches free agency and could be more open to the idea of an extension.
So the Mets have a wealth of starting pitchers for the next two seasons. However, the Mets are still running a tight team budget. As much as the talent of the franchise rests with starting pitching, the field position lacks key superstars. Re-signing Yoenis Cespedes was a mandatory cost to hold the fans' off-season attention. But with David Wright's continuing health issues, and no natural center fielder on the roster, the Mets do have glaring holes in their line up.
It is doubtful that the Mets will trade any of their starters to close the line up gaps with hitters. The Mets need to have depth at starter because its power arms are prone to injury.