Jacob deGrom Signs with the Texas Rangers

While it wasn’t really a huge shock due to all the talk about taking his talents to Arlington, Texas, Jacob deGrom finally officially signed with the Texas Rangers baseball club (not the law enforcement organization.) The contract is for five years guaranteeing $185 million. Thanks to Levi Weaver of the Athletic, we know the contract’s financial specifics: deGrom will make $30 million in 2023, $40 million in each 2024 and 2025, with $38 million in 2026, and finally $37 million in 2027. There is also an option for a sixth season, but there is no guaranteed money attached.

Naturally, this is going to be one of the biggest free agent signings of the 2022-23 offseason, but I don’t particularly like it for the Rangers. First off, as pretty much everyone has already beat to death, deGrom has injury concerns. He hasn’t pitched a full season since 2019, and while his arm isn’t falling off or anything, his body is clearly beginning to show considerable wear and tear. The Rangers spent big on Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Jon Gray in the 2021-22 offseason, and while those guys did actually work out individually, the team still fell flat. Even if deGrom is completely healthy, and has a similar season to his best ever in 2018, that still only adds 7 wins to an otherwise mediocre ballclub.

Sure, without DeGrom, the Rangers are probably an 80 win team. With DeGrom they are probably more like an 85 win team, with Steamer projecting deGrom to be worth 5.5 WAR in 172 innings pitched. Arlington’s new stadium is slightly more pitcher friendly than their old one. In fact, in 2022, Statcast ranked the new Globe Life Stadium as being slightly pitcher friendly. It’s actually slightly pitcher-friendly when it comes to home runs, whereas their old stadium was consistently in the top 5 for being friendly for home runs.

As DeGrom was actually unlucky with home runs in his short stint in 2021, with neutral luck and the help of the Arlington ballpark, he probably meets his 2023 projections (5 WAR or so) as long as he doesn’t miss many starts. When he’s healthy, he’s the best pitcher in the game; but, on the IL, he’s just being paid a pile of money.

So, yes, DeGrom instantly takes this team from mediocre to at least a dark horse contender. They got their best pitcher in Martin Perez back already and Jon Gray now slots in as a good #3. We can expect even better years from Seager and Semien, they have a good catcher in Jonah Heim, a slugger in Nathaniel Lowe, and an impatient but also strong slugger in Adolis Garcia. The problem remains, though, that they’re pretty thin past all that. Still, if they get better results from Dane Dunning, and the Jake Odorizzi acquisition gives them a solid #4 or #5, this team could easily win 86 to 88 games if everything breaks their way.

Unfortunately, deGrom is going to have to put this entire pitching staff on his shoulders. Can the 35-year-old who’s lost huge chunks of the past three seasons handle that workload? I’m sure that the Rangers will manage him closely; if they fall out of contention at all, they’ll likely keep him on pitch counts, etc. Is an Annual Average Value of $37 Million worth the risks deGrom brings? Yes, because that assumes he’ll be worth an average of 4-plus WAR a season. Even if he misses big chunks of two or three seasons, it’s fully possible that he’ll be worth this contract, as long as they hold him back whenever any injury of any kind crops up.

The reason I don’t love this signing is that’s a huge chunk of your payroll to commit to what’s already a top-heavy team. Yes, if he stays healthy to any reasonable degree, deGrom himself could make this a Wild Card contender. My issue isn’t with deGrom; it’s with the rest of the team. They have very little depth, although credit to GM Chris Young getting Odorizzi and getting back Martin Perez (albeit with the lure of a $19.8 million qualifying offer) to solidify the back end of the pitching rotation.

Now the question remains do the Rangers score enough runs, which is very odd to say considering that the Rangers were always known for offense. I don’t think the Rangers are done with free agency, although this should be their big splash. If the Rangers do end up in the playoffs this year, though, deGrom is going to be a big reason why. Now it’s up to deGrom’s body not to fail him and a team in Arlington that is betting big on his right arm.

Writing words, spreading love, Amelia Desertsong primarily writes creative nonfiction articles, as well as dabbling in baseball, Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, and whatever else tickles her fancy.
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