‘I think the biggest thing we talked about was we had to improve the starting pitching’ – The Denver Post


SAN DIEGO — If you ask the Mets, they’ll tell you they never really knew what Jacob deGrom was thinking over the last month as they pursued their homegrown ace in free agency. The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, knew that the 34-year-old right-hander had a strong interest in joining the team.

Rangers manager Bruce Bochy shed some light on just how, exactly, the club was able to land the premier pitcher on the free agent market and one of the best starters in the game Monday as Winter Meetings got underway. A five-year, $186 million contract with an option for a sixth year to bring the total to as much as $222 million ultimately swayed the two-time Cy Young Award winner, but it seems as though he had his mind made up to leave New York from the start.

General manager Chris Young and owner Ray Davis promised Bochy that the club would be aggressive in their dealings this winter with the intent to return the Rangers to prominence. That meant finding starting pitching.

“I think the biggest thing we talked about was we had to improve the starting pitching,” Bochy said Monday afternoon at the Grand Hyatt San Diego. “I mean, that’s where it starts. You have to throw, you gotta catch it, and that’s probably never going to change, and certainly won’t with me. So that’s where we had to really get better and get some experience out there, some winning attitude.”

With the financial freedom to sign a pitcher like deGrom, the Rangers began the pursuit.

Bochy first met deGrom in 2015 when he was a member of the NL All-Star team. The manager was coming off of his third World Series win with the San Francisco Giants and the pitcher was coming off of an NL Rookie of the Year campaign. Bochy was impressed with the stuff but didn’t get to know him until a Zoom call right before Thanksgiving.

“When you are in that conversation, again, you don’t know where you’re at or where you stand,” Bochy said. “But he and his wife, Stacey, showed a tremendous interest in what we had and possibilities of what could happen with Texas baseball.”

Bochy felt that deGrom was enthusiastic and resolute in what he was looking for out of his next team.

“I think what I got from him is you know how really committed he was to playing on a winner,” Bochy said. “I think he liked the fact that we were in the process of building a winning culture in Texas. A very humble man that just wants to pitch. And a guy that also wants to be a good teammate, that was excited to listen to what we had to offer him.”

This struck a cord with Mets fans since the Rangers haven’t had a winning season since 2016. The Mets, on the other hand, have come a long way in building a winning culture. It’s something the team pointed to as a point of pride following a 101-win campaign and a return to the postseason. Shortstop Francisco Lindor openly lauded the efforts made by owner Steve Cohen to make positive changes from the top down shortly after the team was eliminated in the postseason.

The notion that deGrom “just wants to pitch” has been questioned in recent seasons. In 2017, deGrom was adamant about his desire to make 30 starts and pitch 200 innings consistently. But injuries limited him to only 156 innings over the past two years and many throughout the organization wondered if he actually wanted to pitch.

DeGrom does seem to want to pitch, but not for the Mets.

“I didn’t really have much of a feel in either direction through the negotiations,” Mets GM Billy Eppler said.

The Mets and deGrom were in touch each day last week. Meanwhile, deGrom was in touch with Young, and the GM relayed the message to his manager.

“He called me and said, ‘You know, that Jacob has a lot of interest in coming here,’” Bochy said. “And you’re excited about that, but you still don’t know where it’s going to go. And then the next day he called me and he starts talking. And then he finally said, ‘We got him. We got Jacob.’”

The Rangers are, obviously, ecstatic about the acquisition of such a high-caliber pitcher. Bochy even described the feeling as “euphoric.” Texas might be further behind than the Mets in its rebuild but the Amazins’ have already moved on, agreeing to a two-year contract with three-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander on Monday morning.

It’s a disappointing ending to deGrom’s illustrious Mets tenure, but it’s now clear that it was always going to end.

“He’s a great pitcher and he gave Mets fans a lot of really great memories,” Eppler said. “Like I said, we wish him the best and I’m happy he was able to make the decision that was best for him and his family.”



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