Jacob deGrom is a Texas Ranger.
It sounds weird, doesn’t it? Its weird typing it.
I mean, we’ve known for a while that this was a possibility. And not a possibility in the “anything is possible, the A’s might sign Aaron Judge, and monkeys might fly out of my butt” sense, but possible in the sense that they were realistically one of the leading contenders for deGrom.
Still, if you had even money odds and could pick “Rangers” or “The Field”, you weren’t taking Texas. The most likely scenario was deGrom signing with one of the other 29 major league teams. That’s the nature of the free agent market.
And then, out of nowhere, the Rangers PR Twitter account — the one that does the official transactions now that John Blake is in whatever you call his current still around but not on the grind role — tweets that the Rangers have signed deGrom to a five year deal.
The conceptual, the possible, the indeterminable, suddenly came into existence. The wave function collapsed. Schrodinger’s Cat’s mortality was known. Hypothetical Jacob deGrom, Texas Ranger became reality.
I’m sitting here and I still don’t know exactly how to process this, how to think about it analytically, objectively. When I try to think about 5 years, $185 million, and yeah, that’s a lot of years, but its less than the $40-something million that was anticipated in AAV, and how does this impact the team’s expectations in 2022, and what other moves does this open up...
When I try to do all that my brain spits out a piston and shouts, “JACOB DEGROM IS A RANGER!!!!”
The Rangers needed a couple of starting pitchers and a big bat this offseason. They really needed a legitimate #1 starter, but I mean, let’s not be too greedy here, there’s not a ton of those around, and so a couple of quality starters would be perfectly fine.
And then the Rangers go and sign the guy who is the best pitcher in baseball...when healthy.
And yeah, the “when healthy” is a rub, and he had forearm soreness last year and it wouldn’t be shocking if his UCL blows in May and he’s out for 15 months and we all scream about how the Rangers are cursed.
But at the same time, he wasn’t ridden hard in his early 20s. He didn’t even make the majors until his age 26 season. From 2015 through 2020, he started 161 games, tied for the 8th most in the majors — it isn’t as if he has a lengthy history of injury issues.
Oh, and in that six year period, he was second in MLB in bWAR among pitchers, with 32.1, trailing just Max Scherzer. The only other pitchers who accumulated even 25 bWAR in that period were Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. He put up a 2.60 ERA, a 2.76 FIP, and a 153 ERA+ over that stretch.
And yes, over the past two years he’s made 26 starts and pitched 156 innings while dealing with physical issues.
But the crazy thing is, over that two year period of time, when he’s been on the mound, he’s actually been better than he was from 2015-20.
Since the start of 2021, deGrom has a 1.90 ERA. He has a 1.60 FIP. He has struck out 248 of 563 batters faced, and has walked just 19.
Just 19 walks!!!
Is it a gamble? Of course. Its a huge gamble. deGrom could blow out an elbow, he could be dogged by injuries, he could miss a bunch of time, he could end up being an expensive disappointment.
But there’s also huge upside here. Because when he’s healthy, he’s the best pitcher in baseball.
Reports indicate that the Mets didn’t even get to make a final offer to deGrom before he signed with Texas. We’ll probably also hear that it didn’t matter, the Mets weren’t topping, or even matching, what Texas offered. But there’d been rumblings for a while that deGrom was less than thrilled with being a New York Met, wasn’t necessarily happy with his experience with the Mets in recent years.
So now deGrom is a Ranger. He’ll be playing for new manager Bruce Bochy and new pitching coach Mike Maddux. He’ll be playing with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. He’ll be heading up a rotation which, I’m wagering, will include at least one more meaningful addition by the time spring training rolls around. And they’ve still got money to spend, and a strong, deep farm system they haven’t even touched yet, to use to make improvements.
No more half measures. The Rangers are making clear their intention to be back in the playoffs in 2023.