Heading into 2022, the Mets seemed to be staring down the barrel at a difficult offseason position. Jacob deGrom, one of the greatest players in franchise history, had an opt-out in his contract. And after other pitchers got bigger and bigger deals than he had, and the Mets were purchased by the richest owner in the league, he announced his intention in spring training to exercise his opt-out. This would be his final season before hitting the open market for the first time in his career.
He had ended 2021 in depressing fashion, suffering injury after injury, coming out early of numerous starts, and eventually missing the entire second half of the season with forearm tightness. It was a shame for him to not be able to see through to the end what was tracking to be one of the most impressive pitching seasons of all time. Through 15 starts, he had a ludicrous 1.08 ERA, a 1.24 FIP, a barely-there 0.554 WHIP, and a 14.3 K/9, all good for a 373 ERA+ and 4.4 bWAR. He was having a season that was on track to be up there with Bob Gibson’s 1968 season and Pedro Martínez’s 2000 season.
But before he could see any action in a major league game for the first time in almost 10 months, he underwent an MRI and was found to have a stress reaction on his right scapula, for which the only solution was to stop baseball activities until it healed. And thus, he was at best not going to see game action until June, at which point he’d have to have a rehab assignment which would add a few more weeks to his wait to return to the Citi Field mound. But he reiterated his intent to opt out after the season’s end, and thus all anyone could do is wait.
He finally started his rehab assignment at the start of July, and after some stops and starts due to continued concern over his injury, he finally made it back to the big league team for his first start in over a year on August 2, 2022. He ended up making 11 starts for the team over the second half, totalling 64.1 innings over those 11 games. He ended the season with a 3.08 ERA, a 2.13 FIP, with a 0.746 WHIP and the same 14.3 K/9 as 2021, coming together for a 126 ERA+. He was great in his limited time in 2022, but not as dominant as years prior.
He also finally got to pitch in another postseason game for the first time since the Mets 2015 postseason run. He started the Mets only win in the Wild card series, going 6 innings while only giving up two runs and striking out eight. He didn’t have his best stuff, walking two and giving up five hits. But such as he is known to do, even when he has to battle he does so successfully, and he helped get the Mets closer to making it through to the next round, and got a win in potentially his final start as a Met.
Now, the Mets and deGrom head into the offseason in a place of uncertainty. deGrom seems to be targeting a much bigger payday than his first contract, maybe even to break Max Scherzer’s record $43.3 million AAV record. The Mets have several holes to fill, and may or may not be willing to give deGrom exactly what he wants or outbid other teams looking to pay for a pitcher of his caliber. deGrom has said before he would like to spend his career as a lifetime Met, but who knows how his line of thinking has gone since those comments were made. There’s a chance that he has pitched his final game in the orange and blue, or maybe there’s more years of his brilliance to come in Queens.
No matter what happens with deGrom’s future with the Mets, his career with them thus far has been brilliant. He’s heading down a Hall of Fame path, and he’s put the Mets in multiple positions to win in his career, with 2022 being no different. He may have had more injury problems the last two seasons than usual, but when he’s on the mound, there’s no one better. The only question left to answer is whether or not he’ll be back in Queens in 2023.