Shocker! Texas Rangers Sign Mets Ace Jacob de Grom To Five-Year Pact

Even before the official opening of the Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego Sunday, one of the biggest prizes of the off-season jumped teams late Friday.

Jacob de Grom, who had spent his entire career with the New York Mets, signed a five-year, $185 million contract to pitch for the Texas Rangers. The pitcher had opted out of his Mets contract, leaving $32.5 million on the table.

The signing shakes up two divisions, weakening the Mets after a 101-win season in the National League East, and strengthening the Rangers, who earlier added manager Bruce Bochy, who won three World Series rings with San Francisco

It also loosens a logjam of top free-agent starters, with only Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodón remaining.

Both New York teams are after Verlander, who won his third Cy Young Award while leading the Houston Astros to the world championship this past season. He has ties to both the Mets, where he teamed with Max Scherzer in Detroit and with the Yankees, where he was a teammate of Gerrit Cole with the Houston Astros.

Verlander is also the target of the Dodgers, seeking another starter in the wake of Walker Buehler’s Tommy John surgery. Verlander has an off-season home in Los Angeles and a wife, model Kate Upton, who loves the Hollywood lifestsyle.

Meanwhile, the de Grom signing was a shot across the bow for general managers who sleep-walked through the four weeks since the World Series ended.

The 35-year-old right-hander signed a pact that includes a no-trade clause and a conditional option for the 2028 season, swelling its potential value to $222 million, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.

The Rangers also spent heavily last winter, signing Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Jon Gray, but still failed to return to contention in the AL West – mainly because of thin pitching.

The de Grom signing addresses that weakness with an enormous exclamation mark.

He won consecutive National League Cy Young Awards while with the Mets in 2018-19 and has also won two strikeout crowns and an ERA title. He’s made only 26 starts over the last two seasons, however, because of problems with his shoulder and elbow.

The Rangers think he’s healthy again, although he will celebrate his 35th birthday in June.

“We are thrilled that Jacob deGrom has decided to become a Texas Ranger,” said general manager Chris Young in a press release. “Over a number of seasons, Jacob has been a standout major league pitcher. He gives us a dominant performer at the top of our rotation.

“One of our primary goals this off-season was to strengthen our starting pitching, and we are adding one of the best.”

The top Texas pitcher last season was left-hander Martin Pérez, whom the Rangers hope to pair with de Grom in a strong right-left tandem.

The lifelong National Leaguer led the majors with a 1.70 earned run average in 2018, when he pitched 217 innings, and posted a still-solid 2.43 mark a year later. In his lone playoff game last year, he struck out eight San Diego Padres in six innings during the NL Wild Card Series.

A former NL Rookie of the Year, de Grom has made the All-Star team four times. The 6’4″ strikeout artist is a native of DeLand, FL who had expressed a desire to pitch closer to home.

With Verlander and slugging outfielder Aaron Judge yet to sign, the de Grom move is by far the biggest of the current off-season.

The sixth-biggest deal ever given a free-agent pitcher, it trails only contracts signed by Cole ($324 million), Stephen Strasburg ($245 million), David Price ($217 million), Scherzer ($210 million with Washington), and Zack Greinke ($206.5 million). Its annual average is $37 million, trailing only Scherzer’s $43.3 million.

The Rangers will forfeit their highest pick in the 2023 amateur draft plus $500,000 in international bonus signing money. They currently have a payroll commitment of $177 million, a club record.

But the Rangers may not be finished as they seek to end the team’s six-year absence from post-season play. The team now stands some $40 million short of the lowest payroll tax of $233 million.

Losing de Grom will intensify pressure on the Mets, who thus far retain only Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco from their 2022 rotation, and on several other clubs, notably the Dodgers and Yankees, that had also hoped to sign de Grom.

As compensation for their loss, the Mets will get an extra pick after the fourth round of the amateur draft.

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