October 23, 2018

Will the Braves Get Jacob deGrom?

It’s known the Braves have money to spend and are looking to make a big splash this offseason.  They hit well and pitched will in 2018 but are looking to take the next step and run with the big boys in the National League in 2019.  They are a young, up-and-coming team but there are also players from the 2018 team who will likely regress some in 2019.  The 2018 team wasn’t all young players who you’d expect to take a step forward in 2019.  I’m confident the front office knows this and will act on it.

While acquiring pitching was the focus of the rebuild and while there is plenty of pitching depth, and while they are certain to add offense, they could also use a reliable top-of-the-rotation starter to solidify things on the run-prevention side of the equation.  Madison Bumgarner and Patrick Corbin are a couple of names who have come up in acquisition rumors.  But the one name certain to be on the top of the list of desired starters is clearly Jacob deGrom.  The Mets’ starter is the likely NL Cy Young winner and probably should win the MVP (though he probably won’t).  If he’s made available, well over half the teams in baseball will make a run at trading for him.  He has two years left before he hits free agency for the first time, so his contract is a huge value.  The Mets can command at least two or three prospects with major league star potential plus a couple more legit prospects for him.

The Mets organization is in a bad place. But, they have enough of a core that they could more or less get lucky and contend next season.  And their ownership is dumb enough to think the possibility is more realistic than it is.  In fairness, while I don’t think contention is all that likely, it’s not completely out of the question either.  The odds are more in the Mets’ favor than they are in, say, the Orioles’ favor.  If success were to happen for the Mets, it would not be sustainable success. But, they have just enough of a core in place that ownership might not trade deGrom, at least not to start the season, whether they should or shouldn’t (they probably should). And there is some realistic chance, say 25 percent, that not committing to a rebuild right now could pay off for them in the short term.

All that to say, I don’t think it’s a given that the Mets are willing to move deGrom before the season, at least not in a deal that is reasonable.  A team may have to absolutely blow them away to coax them to trade deGrom before the start of the season.  But maybe I’m not giving them enough credit or maybe they’ll turn baseball ops over to someone who is not a pawn of the owners, and who realizes a rebuild is in order.

Another purported issue with a deGrom trade is that the Mets and Braves play in the same division.  The thinking goes that the Mets wouldn’t want to see deGrom succeed against them as often as they would if he played on a team within their division; and the Braves might not want to see some young studs, once in their system, succeed against them even beyond the time they’d have deGrom.  But this is not as much a concern these days as it once was.  Teams now sell rebuilds and fans understand.  If the Mets do a good enough job explaining that a deGrom trade allows them to become the next Astros or Cubs or Braves, sure some fans won’t buy it but plenty will.  Teams realize that if they lose fans because of a rebuild, they will come back or they’ll gain enough new ones once the team starts to win.  From the Braves’ perspective, even if they have to give up multiple stud prospects and even though deGrom doesn’t guarantee success, they can sell it as going all in, doing everything in their power to bring a championship to Atlanta.  If teams within the same division are on different paths, one rebuilding and one trying to win, inter-division trades are more accepted than they were in the past, when teams thought you had to appear to be trying every year or else you were going to alienate fans.  These days fans are more alienated by a team hovering around .500 or worse with no hopes for their future than they are a team losing 100 games as a result of trying to load up on minor league talent.

A deGrom trade will depend on the path the Mets want to take.  And that depends on their ownership.  It’s very possible the Mets don’t move deGrom until well into the 2019 season, when they fall out of the playoff race.  The thing to watch is whether they hire a young, analytically-minded executive and give him a title higher than just GM.  If they do, deGrom is likely to be used as a key trade chip to kick off a rebuild, and the Braves have as good a shot as anyone to get him.



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