Great Moments in Yankees Kremlinology: Max Scherzer edition

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Following the Yankees in the offseason — and the media which covers the Yankees in the offseason — reminds me of the Cold War. No, not the threat of nuclear annihilation or any of that fun stuff, but there is definitely some fun Kremlinology to it all.

Like political reporters who covered the Soviet Union, those who cover the Yankees spend an awful lot of time attempting to understand a secretive organization’s plans and intentions by interpreting indirect clues and, often, reading a whole hell of a lot into the smallest thing.

Which, to be fair, the Yankees have justified by fairly frequently (a) lowering expectations as the offseason begins; only to (b) make some big splash later, with little or no warning. Which makes some sense because the Yankees general manager is, like the Soviet Premier, nominally in charge but answers to an ownership/party hierarchy that can trump his intentions if it so chooses.

Today the New York Daily News thinks the party hierarchy is so choosing. With the headline “Hal Steinbrenner won’t rule out Max Scherzer,” which is only missing an exclamation point because newspapers only do that when countries win World Wars. From the story:

Maybe it’s just his DNA talking, but while Hal Steinbrenner added his voice to the chorus of Yankee bigwigs sounding doubtful about adding a pricey player such as Max Scherzer, the Boss Jr. didn’t slam the door on an expensive upgrade, either.

All from Hal Steinbrenner saying “look, it’s not over till it’s over” in response to questions about the Yankees’ payroll and need to add some starting pitching. Which, sure, because this is the Yankees could mean that they give Scherzer crazy money just after lunch today. Or could mean absolutely nothing and the press is reading too much into an innocuous comment.

Which is what the Yankees’ offseasons have come to look like. Their prerogative, of course. But man, I’d hate to have to cover that team.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Free-agent ace Jacob deGrom and the Texas Rangers agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner leaves the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

Texas announced the signing Friday night after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

“We are thrilled that Jacob deGrom has decided to become a Texas Ranger,” executive vice president and general manager Chris Young said in a statement. “Over a number of seasons, Jacob has been a standout major league pitcher, and he gives us a dominant performer at the top of our rotation. One of our primary goals this offseason is to strengthen our starting pitching, and we are adding one of the best.”

Texas went 68-94 last season and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco, as its new manager. The Rangers’ six straight losing seasons are their worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

This latest blockbuster move comes just before baseball’s winter meetings, which begin early next week in San Diego. The Rangers said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson University, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his professional career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons.

New York won 101 regular-season games last season, second-most in franchise history, but was caught by NL East champion Atlanta down the stretch and settled for a wild card.

After declining his 2023 option, ending his contract with the Mets at $107 million over four years, deGrom rejected a $19.65 million qualifying offer in November, so New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation. Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.