Two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom agreed to a five-year, $185 million contract with the Texas Rangers, sources told ESPN, bringing the most talented pitcher in baseball to a pitching-starved organization that is making massive free agent investments for the second straight offseason.
The Rangers announced the deal on Friday night, but did not disclose terms.
The 34-year-old deGrom, who has spent all nine seasons of his major league career with the New York Mets, opted out of the final two years of his contract despite throwing just 64⅓ innings in 2022. He missed the first four months of the season with a stress reaction in his shoulder, and injuries had limited him to 224⅓ innings over the past three seasons.
Texas looked past those issues and to the potential for deGrom to be a transformative figure in the organization. He shattered industry-wide expectations of a shorter-term deal with the five-year package that sources said includes a sixth-year option to bring the contract’s total value to $222 million.
The signing comes barely a year after the Rangers lavished shortstop Corey Seager with a 10-year, $325 million deal and signed second baseman Marcus Semien for seven years and $175 million. Along with Jon Gray‘s four-year, $56 million deal, the Rangers spent the most money in the 2021-22 offseason.
Bringing in deGrom with the biggest deal of the 2022-23 offseason thus far continues the spending. The contract does not include any deferred money and gives deGrom a full no-trade clause, sources said. Between that and the lack of a state tax in Texas, competing teams would have needed to exceed the $40 million-a-year threshold and stretch the offer’s length to have competed with the Rangers.
In deGrom, the Rangers secured a right-hander with the best arsenal of pitches among starters: a 100-mph-plus fastball he throws with exquisite command, a hard-biting slider that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and a changeup and curveball that would be elite pitches for others but serve as complementary to deGrom’s fastball-slider duo.
DeGrom finished the 2022 season with a 5-4 record and 3.08 ERA in 11 starts, though his peripherals better illustrated his dominance: 102 strikeouts against just eight walks, with nine home runs allowed.
It continued the sort of performances he had put up over the previous four seasons, when he won both of his Cy Youngs and elevated himself from a former ninth-round pick out of Stetson University — where he played shortstop — to the most unhittable pitcher in the world.
He didn’t debut with the Mets until a month before he turned 26, and with Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz also among the Mets’ young starters, deGrom was not regarded as a future star.
By the end of his first season, when he posted a 2.69 ERA over 140⅓ innings, expectations grew. DeGrom made the National League All-Star team in his second season and received Cy Young votes in his fourth year before breaking out as a 30-year-old in 2018. Over 217 innings, deGrom struck out 269 hitters, walked 46, allowed only 10 home runs and posted a 1.70 ERA en route to his first Cy Young.
He made it back-to-back awards with a 2.43 ERA over 204 innings with 255 strikeouts in 2019. That spring, he had signed a five-year contract extension that included an opt-out after the 2022 season.
After throwing 68 innings in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, deGrom looked at his peak in 2021, posting a 1.08 ERA in 15 starts, with 146 strikeouts and 11 walks in 92 innings. But he missed more than half the season with arm issues and the first half of the 2022 season, leading some to wonder whether he would forgo the final two years of his deal.
He did — and with good reason. The market for deGrom was robust, even with fears about his age and health. A year ago, the Mets signed future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer to a three-year, $130 million contract despite him being 37 years old.
While deGrom didn’t match Scherzer’s average annual value, the $37 million a year exceeds the previous No. 2, New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, and, with the lack of deferrals and taxes, is closer to Scherzer’s number than the on-paper gap.
The Rangers’ willingness to go to that level stunned the industry. While it was clear that Texas — whose starters’ ERA of 4.63 ranked 25th of 30 teams this year — planned on pursuing pitching, giving deGrom a fifth season signaled its intent to get the best pitcher on the market.
With deGrom, Gray, Martin Perez and Jake Odorizzi, along with young big leaguers Dane Dunning and Glenn Otto and prospects Kumar Rocker, Jack Leiter and Owen White, the Rangers are suddenly in a far better position.
The competition in the American League West won’t be easy. Atop the division are defending World Series champion Houston, which has signed first baseman Jose Abreu and reliever Rafael Montero, and behind the Astros this season were the wild card-winning Seattle Mariners, who have added outfielder Teoscar Hernandez and second baseman Kolten Wong in trades.