Jacob deGrom Declines to Sign Mets' New Contract in Protest

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2016

New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom pitches during the first inning of Game 2 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo.  (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom is refusing to sign his contract for the 2016 season as a form of protest due to his disappointment in the salary the team assigned him.

Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reported the decision won't have any type of major impact because the 27-year-old starter isn't arbitration-eligible, which means the Mets get to assign his salary. DeGrom, who will earn $607,000, said it's just a business choice and won't have any lingering effects on future talks:

That's the business side of the game. That's why I hired my agents. I feel like I have some of the best in the business. It was a business decision that we decided to make. We have great respect for the Mets and the system that they have, and I feel like I have a great relationship with them.

As I've said before, I love playing here. And I want to be in this uniform for a long time. It was just a decision based on the business side of the game.  

DeGrom also stated there have not been any talks about a potential long-term extension, but he's open to discussions if the Mets are interested. That said, the front office isn't under any pressure because he's projected to remain under team control through 2020, according to Rubin.

It's the second time this issue has been raised since the start of spring training. Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review reported in late February that Pittsburgh Pirates starter Gerrit Cole was unhappy with his assigned salary of $541,000 for 2016, which is the same amount he earned last season.

"They even threatened a salary reduction to the league minimum if I did not agree," Cole said.

Alas, there's nothing the players can do about the situation based on the current rules. It's something that will likely take center stage as Major League Baseball and its Players Association ramp up talks about a new collective bargaining agreement. The current one is set to expire on Dec. 1.

The issue is particularly key for pitchers.

Players like deGrom and Cole are often asked to take on key roles early in their careers, meaning their value is far greater than their assigned salaries. But, with arm injuries a constant concern, a pitcher's inability to cash in on early success could have a major impact on his long-term earning potential.

DeGrom is somewhat of a late bloomer, as he's set to turn 28 in June during only his third season in the major leagues. So by the time he would be able to reach free agency in 2020, he might only be in line to land one long-term, lucrative contract.

That's why he would prefer to cash in now after going 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA and 0.98 WHIP during the 2015 campaign. He also started four games during the Mets' run to the World Series and continued to shine with a 2.88 ERA in those high-pressure starts.

The team's front office isn't forced to reward him for that success, though, so he'll likely head into the new season with a salary that does not match the type of production he'll be expected to deliver. And then he'll be forced to fight for raises through arbitration for the next few years, unless an extension is signed.