Only way Mets should trade Jacob deGrom: ‘The smart play’

CLEVELAND — An agent named Brodie Van Wagenen used the megaphone that was this event last year — media day when reporters receive extended access to every All-Star — to make the biggest noise of the event:

Pay my client, Jacob deGrom, or trade him.

Van Wagenen was seeking leverage he did not have. The Mets were not compelled to do anything, because deGrom could not be a free agent until after 2020.

But the case to strongly consider dealing deGrom was overt — no need to be accentuated by an agent. The Mets were a fourth-place team at the break, 13 ¹/₂ games out of first, hopelessly lacking the organizational depth needed to be a serial, serious contender. The trade market lacked an elite starter, meaning the Mets were positioned to extract a haul for a player in his 30s with Tommy John surgery in his background.

Wait, does this sound familiar? Replace Nationals Park with Progressive Field as the All-Star venue and change Van Wagenen’s job description.

The 2019 Mets are a fourth-place team at the break, 13 ¹/₂ games out of first, hopelessly lacking the organizational depth needed to be a serial, serious contender. The trade market lacks an elite starter, meaning the Mets are positioned to extract a haul for a player in his 30s with Tommy John surgery in his background.

I was discussing the trade market with an NL executive, no mention of deGrom until unsolicited: “[Van Wagenen] should trade deGrom. He makes a ton of money. He’s 31. He is a game-changing piece on the market. If you put him out right now, there is no one like him on the market, and it is not even close. You can really make a great trade and then build around that and [Jeff] McNeil, [Michael] Conforto and [Pete] Alonso. They would get a lot.”

Do I think the Mets will do this? No. The Wilpons, after authorizing a five-year, $137.5 million extension for deGrom in spring are not going to approve a trade. They know it would unleash another round about their frugality and more cries to “sell the team.” But that is coming anyway until they are a winner — just as with James Dolan and the Knicks. So the only agenda should be whether the Mets would be closer to a title with deGrom or with what they get for him plus the money saved to use elsewhere (hopefully), all played against the risk-reward backdrop of hoping deGrom stays healthy.

Would deGrom do it? He has a full no-trade clause and told me Monday, “All that stuff is out of your control, but with a no-trade clause I do have some control. I haven’t thought about it at all. I signed here with a goal of winning a World Series. Every time I take the ball, I am trying to put my team in position to win and block all that stuff out.”

That is the right attitude. But I do wonder if a pro like deGrom is tired of not just losing, but the often unprofessional environment.

And I wonder if the Mets need to see a basketball analogy having nothing to do with Dolan.

The Thunder signed Paul George to a four-year, $137 million extension last offseason and a year later he wanted out to unite with Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers. To let George go, the Thunder extracted the largest trade return in terms of first-round draft picks in NBA history, turning a team that was not going to win as currently constructed into a looming long-term force because of all of the obtained assets.

This is the only way the Mets should trade deGrom — if the return is so overwhelming that they can’t say no. If you are thinking this was an exercise just to get him to the Yankees, forget that. The Mets shouldn’t do it without Gleyber Torres — and the Yanks wouldn’t do that.

But would the Twins combine Byron Buxton and shortstop prospect Royce Lewis and attack the near future with a 1-2 of deGrom and Jose Berrios? Would the Angels part with stud outfield prospect Jo Adell to front a package? Would the Braves package Cristian Pache (perhaps the best defensive center fielder in the minors) and some of their elite pitching prospects? How far would the Padres go into the deepest system in the sport? The Astros? The Dodgers? Well, really every team.

Don’t the Mets at least have to find out considering yet another season in which they tried to win and, to date, failed miserably? WWAFD — What Would Andrew Friedman do? Or Jeff Luhnow. Or Brian Cashman. Or Theo Epstein. Or … It raises the point should Van Wagenen — off of a catastrophic offseason — be allowed to make a trade of this proportion? Does he have to prove he can successfully handle trades of his walk-year pieces Zack Wheeler, Jason Vargas and Todd Frazier before being allowed to graduate to canvassing for deGrom?

Thunder GM Sam Presti has a much more impressive résumé to make this kind of deal in his environment than Van Wagenen in his. Still isn’t the right thing for any top executive in any business to read the market and if there is a chance to make a big score to — at minimum — consider it?

“Because of deGrom’s control [signed through a 2024 option], you open yourself up to everyone not just current strong contenders,” the NL executive said. “Texas is opening a new park next year, they would love him. The Padres and White Sox have deep systems and are trying to step forward. If [the Mets] don’t do it, that means you have to win next year because [deGrom] is not young. And how do they do that? They just put [Steven] Matz in the bullpen, which says what they think of him. Wheeler is leaving. They have no rotation depth. How are they good next year? Trading [deGrom] would be the smart play.”

A year ago as an agent Van Wagenen floated the possibility to try to gain leverage. Would he have the nerve as GM to try this as a way to create a better team?

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