‘Tis the season for massive baseball deals. The Texas Rangers, who had one of the worst pitching rotations in baseball last year, just got a massive upgrade with their latest free agent signing. The Rangers agreed to a deal with Jacob deGrom, a two-time Cy Young winner and, when healthy, among the best pitchers in the major leagues.
The contract is for five years and $185 million. There’s also a sixth-year option that would bring the total value to $222 million.
This is the second offseason in a row the Rangers have shown a willingness to spend big. Alongside deGrom’s $185 million, the team also handed shortstop Corey Seager a 10-year, $325 million contract and will give second baseman Marcus Semien $175 million over seven years. The Rangers have committed $685 million to three free agents in the past two offseasons.
The Rangers benefited by Texas having no state income tax. Other teams would have needed to shell out at least $40 million per year to land deGrom. Instead, the pitcher arrives in Arlington with the biggest deal of the offseason so far.
Now, deGrom will lead a Rangers staff that suddenly seems a lot more competitive. He finished 2022 with a 5-4 record and a 3.08 ERA but had a ridiculous 102 strikeouts against only eight walks in 64 1/3 innings. He had a stress reaction in his shoulder that kept him out of action for the first four months of the season; the Rangers are hopeful the 34-year-old can put some of his previous health issues behind him.
In fact, deGrom’s road to pitching dominance is pretty impressive. He played shortstop at Stetson University and was a ninth-round pick. He didn’t make his MLB debut until a month before his 26th birthday. At the time, the Mets had an impressive group of starters, including Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. Yet deGrom had an impressive rookie season and continued to get better.
In 2018 and 2019, deGrom won back-to-back Cy Young awards. He fanned 524 hitters in a combined 421 innings over the two seasons, an absurd rate of striking out 1.25 batters every inning.
The Mets rewarded him with a five-year contract that included an opt-out clause in 2022 after year three. With the free agent market looking lucrative for pitchers, deGrom opted out. Scoring this major deal means the decision to leave worked out just fine.
Now, deGrom will look to get the Rangers back to competitive baseball. The franchise has never won a championship, though they reached the World Series in 2010 and 2011. They’ll need to contend with the reigning champion Houston Astros and the surprising Seattle Mariners, who reached the postseason for the first time in 20 years.
Both of those teams have gotten better in free agency. Then again, with deGrom on their side, so have the Rangers.