Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Get Used to the Trolls

Andy Martino w/o
the TV makeup
For now, it's speculation about whether Jacob deGrom really "likes" pitching in New York. Trolling Mets fans is a full-time job for the local and national baseball media. My advice is: get used to it and ignore it as much as possible.

Over the weekend, ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted out, "There is a perception in some corners of the industry that if Jacob deGrom follows through with what he said in the spring and opts out of his Mets' contract, the Braves will be the favorites to land him." I chuckled when I first read it, the wording was artful in appearing to say a lot without really saying much of anything. There isn't much fact-based stuff going on in claiming that a "perception" exists in "some corners of the industry." For instance, a perception exists among the two canine members of my household that they are entitled to share my dinner with me. Understand that both of these dogs have lived with us for years and have never been given people food during meals. Yet that perception, fundamentally wrong as it is, still persists in some corners of my household.

Don't get me wrong. While my dogs will never receive people's food directly from the table, there certainly is a decent chance that Jacob deGrom will move on to another club after this season. As for Atlanta being "favorites to land him," it seems to me to be going rather far out on a limb for the corporate-run Braves. Looking at Atlanta's highest salaries this season, Charlie Morton tops the list with $20 million on a 1-year deal. Marcell Ozuna is next at $16 million. Ronald Acuña Jr. follows at $15 million.

Morton is taking it a year at a time, so who knows if he'll return in 2023. There is a club option for $20 million if he does. Acuña's contract goes up to $17 million next season. Ozuna will make $16 million again. Matt Olson will earn $21 million under the extension he signed. Young players like Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley will be more expensive. If the Braves elect to re-sign free-agent SS Dansby Swanson, a key member of their team, it will cost them a heck of a lot more than the $10 million they're paying him in his last year of arbitration.

Yet somehow, this relatively frugal club will find the $40 million or so a year that deGrom is reportedly looking for, taking on the financial risk for several years of this immensely talented but frighteningly fragile pitcher who will be 35 next June. It doesn't seem to compute with how the Atlanta club is run. Yet Olney cites extremely nebulous sources that somehow Atlanta will be the favorites to land Jacob deGrom. Perhaps because the best way to troll Mets fans is to make their division rivals the favorites, no matter how convoluted the reasoning.

And, of course, SNY's Andy Martino — who spends most days hiding out under a bridge, hoping to ambush the Billy Goats Gruff — has to piggyback onto this reasoning. First off, Martino makes the point that some, of course, unnamed "league executives speculate that if deGrom returns for a few months (or even a few games) throwing 100 miles per hour, he could tempt another team to offer a contract above what the Mets consider rational." Then Andy explains the Atlanta aspect of all of this:

The Atlanta speculation is rooted in part in the fact that Georgia is closer, both in geography and culture, to deGrom's native Florida. While deGrom has been popular with most teammates during his time in New York -- "it might be hard for you to believe, but he's really funny," says one longtime teammate -- he does not seem to enjoy the extra attention that comes with playing here.

So, on the one hand, Jacob can be looking at an extraordinary payday, more than the $40 million per year that Max Scherzer signed for. On the other, Atlanta is indeed much closer to Jacob's central Florida roots and lifestyle than New York City. But that doesn't convince me that the Braves will blow up their entire salary structure while taking on the rather significant risk that deGrom brings with him. I almost hope the Braves do something that stupid, but I doubt they will. And I think Buster Olney and Andy Martino understand that very well, also.

I still have one more post to finish in my "Decisions, Decisions" series. I promise I'll get that posted soon. But the point behind the whole series is that the Mets have some very difficult decisions to make this winter. Besides deGrom, starting pitchers Chris BassittTaijuan Walker, and Trevor Williams will be free agents. The Mets will also have to decide if Carlos Carrasco is worth bringing back at $14 million. They will also need to determine if they want to bring back closer Edwin Díaz at a significantly upgraded salary. Key lineup piece Brandon Nimmo — with durability questions of his own — can also walk away at the end of the season.

Steve Cohen is undoubtedly wealthy and has proven to be far from being cheap like his predecessors. But there is almost no chance that deGrom, Bassit, Walker, Díaz, and Nimmo will all be back next season. Tough-minded business decisions need to be made. Risk and potential reward need to be carefully weighed. As a fan, I very much hope that Jacob deGrom is still a Met next season. But I understand that there is no guarantee this will happen.

The "old Mets" of the Wilpon era were "kinda" trying to win, but they mostly didn't. That club could afford to make sentiment-based decisions. If they went wrong, it just added a few more disappointing seasons to a seemingly endless queue of misery. But Cohen's Mets are trying to win regularly, and that will involve some tough decisions year after year.

The Dodgers are supposedly the model for this club. Being a Dodger fan is pretty good. The team wins year after year. They do cool things like trading for and signing the best player in baseball, Mookie Betts. But they also make tough business decisions on how much they're willing to pay to keep a great home-grown player like Corey Seager, ultimately choosing to let him go.

The Mets will have to make tough choices now. Jacob deGrom represents a formidable choice for them. He could wind up pitching for someone else after the season. Maybe he would even prefer to leave New York. But sorry, trolls, I just don't buy the Braves as the landing spot. That deal just doesn't make sense for them.

Be well and take care. Let's go Mets!

Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

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