Before players such as deGrom accrue three years of service time and become arbitration-eligible, they have few rights in salary negotiations. Typically, teams quickly come to agreements with those players, as the Mets did with Michael Conforto, Travis d'Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Noah Syndergaard and all of their other top pre-arbitration players. Since Sandy Alderson took over as general manager, the Mets have leaned on a statistical formula to determine salaries for that group.
But from time to time, top players don't agree to such predetermined salaries. It is essentially their only right; they have little choice but to sign a new contract, but the renewal serves to make the standoff public.
"Given Jacob's standing as one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball and his 2015 performance, his worth cannot be properly valued by a formula," deGrom's lead agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, said in a statement. "Like the Mets, he is simply exercising his rights under the [Collective Bargaining Agreement]. This will not affect Jacob's relationship with the Mets. Both parties are focused on preparing for the season and getting the Mets back to the World Series."
A renewal does not necessarily damage a player's standing with his club. Angels outfielder Mike Trout, for example, criticized management after it renewed his contract for close to the league minimum in 2013. A year later, Trout signed a six-year, $144.5 million contract extension.
"From our standpoint, it really has no ongoing bearing on our relationship with Jacob," Alderson said. "It's as good today as it was yesterday."
To that end, deGrom said he is still interested in discussing a long-term deal with the Mets. This should be deGrom's final pre-arbitration season regardless; he is on pace to become a Super Two player after this season, giving his salary the potential to skyrocket like Matt Harvey's did this winter. (Harvey signed a one-year contract for $4.325 million -- approximately seven times what he earned last season, and is a candidate for a long-term extension.) But Alderson said the Mets have yet to approach deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard or Steven Matz this spring about potential deals.
"Not because we're unwilling or because there isn't any interest on the part of the players, necessarily," Alderson said. "We just are where we are in the Spring Training schedule. It's a little early. … There seems to be a fixation on some of our players and the brevity and the length of their time with the Mets. In all these cases, it's going to be a while. They're going to be with us for a while. So is there urgency? I don't see any great urgency."
"We haven't talked about anything yet, and I don't think this will affect that in any way," deGrom added. "I think we're still open to discussions for long-term things, but nothing's in the works now."
In his first full big league season last year, deGrom made the National League All-Star team and went 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA. He finished seventh in NL Cy Young Award voting.