The 5 best landing spots for Jacob deGrom

The 5 best landing spots for Jacob deGrom

The two-time Cy Young winner would instantly bolster any team's rotation

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Oft-injured, but damn near unhittable when healthy, former New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom was bound to draw numerous suitors once free agency started, and while the rumors haven’t been circulating at quite the speed we expected, deGrom’s market has heated up recently, but the heat hasn’t come from the markets we’d expect.

Most recently, the Tampa Bay Rays threw their hat in the ring — a franchise that has never spent more than $35 million (total contract value) on a free agent. If they’re in on deGrom, then anything is possible. This could, of course, just be a fool’s errand on Tampa Bay’s end. As SNY’s Andy Martino reported on Tuesday, “one league source compared this situation to the Rays’ pursuit last winter of free agent first baseman Freddie Freeman when they emphasized the quality of life and lack of state income tax in Florida.”

There’s zero chance that Tampa Bay is the highest bidder for deGrom, but if the Rays are willing to throw themselves out there, perhaps the era of small-market teams making waves in free agency is finally underway! That being said, until I see a picture of deGrom in a Rays jersey, I’ll doubt their legitimacy in the deGrom market. Here are five teams that would be phenomenal fits for the ace should money be of no issue.

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Honorable Mention: New York Mets

Honorable Mention: New York Mets

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It’s hard to leave the only team deGrom, 34, has ever known off a list like this, but reports have indicated that deGrom is the least of the Mets’ concerns this free agency period. Sure, team owner Steve Cohen said he would do “whatever we can” to retain the ace, but of every high-market team in the deGrom race, the Mets might be the most likely to lowball deGrom as they try to retain their other free agents.

Of course, deGrom would be a remarkable fit for the Amazins. How bold of me to make a claim like that, right? All he’s done in the last three years there is put up a 2.05 ERA, 198 ERA-plus, and 14.1 strikeouts per nine rate. Clearly, he fits in well with the Mets. I’m not here to restate the obvious. If the Mets want deGrom back in Queens, they have the tools to do so, but frankly, it seems less and less likely each day.

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5. Tampa Bay Rays

5. Tampa Bay Rays

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Of every team to have shown interest in the former National League Rookie of the Year, the Rays appear the least likely to land deGrom. The most obvious reason is money. Sure, Florida is a pretty warm state and there’s no income tax, but that benefit would pale in comparison to the enormous contracts that other teams would be able to offer.

From strictly a baseball standpoint, Tampa Bay seems a tremendous fit. With Tyler Glasnow set to return from Tommy John surgery, the Rays’ rotation with deGrom would undoubtedly be the best in the AL East, with only Toronto holding a candle to the arms Tampa Bay would trot out every night. The Rays are known for making the most out of their pitchers, and they’re no stranger to having to overcome injuries to their star pitchers, which would certainly be a concern for whichever team ends up with deGrom.

During their pitch to Freddie Freeman last year, reports indicated that Tampa Bay offered Freeman $150 million with zero deferrals. deGrom likely won’t command that type of money given the question marks surrounding his health. The Rays have never carried a payroll over $100 million, and working with such little money makes spending big cash on a free agent all the more risky should they not pan out or suffer a series of injuries. If the Rays do sign deGrom, it would likely be for a very short deal, and that is all the more reason to assume Tampa doesn’t land deGrom.

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4. San Francisco Giants

4. San Francisco Giants

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The Giants have a lot of money, especially with Carlos Rodón’s departure — though he could still return, it’s uncertain — and Evan Longoria’s fifth-year option being declined. Yes, they have their sights set on Aaron Judge, but failing to sign the reigning American League MVP or re-sign Rodón would open the door for deGrom to land in the Bay Area.

The biggest problem with the Giants has been the lack of interest in deGrom. Although the team has thrived when its pitching staff is one of the best in the league, San Francisco has expressed more interest in adding power “up the middle,” according to President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, hinting at the team’s interest in the 2023 class of free agent shortstops.

Still, losing Rodón would be a hole the Giants can’t afford to leave empty should they plan on competing in 2023. This season, SF finished 30 games behind the Dodgers and eight games behind the Padres — who will get a full season of Juan Soto in 2023. Their success has always stemmed from their starting rotation, and frankly, I’m not sure a rotation headlined by Logan Webb (who I really like) and Alex Cobb will be enough.

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3. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

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Walker Buehler is out for 2023 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney are both free agents, and although Clayton Kershaw is reportedly set to return for 2023, the need for another strong arm in the rotation is abundantly clear.

Kershaw’s return doesn’t eliminate the Dodgers from deGrom contention, but it does put a hamper on their pursuit of a starter. The team has other urgent needs at shortstop, third base, and center field after Trea Turner’s departure, Justin Turner’s buyout, and Cody Bellinger’s non-tender. If the Dodgers bring the latter two back on reduced deals — which is a legitimate possibility — their immediate problems are solved, but that still doesn’t shore up their issues at shortstop. Perhaps prospects Eddys Leonard or Jacob Amaya could be ready for an everyday role in the big leagues come 2023, but I’d bet the Dodgers aren’t willing to rely on either of them.

Despite the hole at short, the Dodgers will likely be shorthanded at starting pitcher once again. deGrom, Kershaw, and Julio Urías would rival the Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Urías rotation that the Dodgers put forth in 2021. That’d be near impossible to beat.

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2. Texas Rangers

2. Texas Rangers

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The Rangers finished 25th in pitcher WAR in 2022. deGrom wouldn’t just be a breath of fresh air; he’d be Matt Damon’s first gulp of oxygen after he spent all that time on Mars. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but pairing deGrom up with Bruce Bochy seems unfair. Yes, the Rangers wouldn’t have much veteran help in their starting rotation outside of Martín Pérez, but that might be all the Rangers need. They’ve got a flurry of pitching prospects ready to come up, and that should round out the rotation, assuming at least a few can play at a moderate level.

deGrom’s interest in the Rangers has already been documented. It’s clear that the Rangers are interested in bringing him aboard as well. The team spent more than twice as much in free agency as any other team last season, but still, their 2023 payroll will be lower than 2022. They have room to dig into their well should they want to, and deGrom should be at the top of their board. If they want to compete with the reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros in the AL West, they’d need to make a bold move, and signing an injury-ridden pitcher with potential through the stratosphere would be a very bold move.

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1. Baltimore Orioles

1. Baltimore Orioles

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If I told you the Baltimore Orioles could potentially be big spenders in free agency three years ago, you would’ve spat in my face and thrown me in the river for lunacy. However, fresh off an 83-win campaign in 2022, including a 63-50 record following the debut of top prospect Adley Rutschman, GM Mike Elias stated he was looking to “significantly escalate” his team’s payroll ahead of 2023.

The Orioles are in dire need of an ace, and have almost no money locked up in long-term deals. That makes deGrom a prime candidate to mark the end of Baltimore’s rebuilding phase. deGrom’s presence wouldn’t necessarily ensure the Orioles’ contention in 2023, especially in a division as tough as the AL East, but it would signify that the rebuild that started in 2017 is over and that the team is officially looking to get back in the World Series conversation. For a team that finished 18th in team ERA and 21st in OPS allowed, deGrom would be the biggest get this century. The Orioles would offer the righty a very pitcher-friendly park, and since deGrom’s home run figures climbed up rather drastically in 2022 (from 0.6 allowed per nine innings in 2021 to 1.3 in 2022), that deep left field fence could be very enticing to deGrom.

There haven’t been any rumors revolving around the Orioles and deGrom, but Baltimore has the need, the money, and the bright future necessary to draw that big name they’re looking for. deGrom makes too much sense to pass up, and I’d love to see a move like this from the O’s.

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