Jacob deGrom refused to sign 2016 contract out of protest

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Players who have not yet achieved arbitration eligibility have their salaries decided for them without their input by their respective teams. Signing the contract is merely a formality. Still, Mets starter Jacob deGrom refused to sign his 2016 contract which will pay him a $607,000 salary because he feels undervalued, ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports.

Rubin got comment from deGrom’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Baseball:

“We respect the Mets’ right to determine a pre-arbitration player’s salary and their effort to be consistent with their players,” said agent Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball. “But given Jacob’s standing as one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball and his 2015 performance, his worth cannot be properly valued by a formula. Like the Mets, he is simply exercising his rights under the [collective bargaining agreement]. This will not affect Jacob’s relationship with the Mets. Both parties are focused on preparing for the season and getting the Mets back to the World Series.”

deGrom, 27, won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2014, making 22 starts with a 2.69 ERA and a 144/43 K/BB ratio in 140 1/3 innings. He followed up with an even better effort last season, finishing with a 2.54 ERA and a 205/38 K/BB ratio in 191 innings, helping the Mets break their playoff drought and advance to the World Series. He made the NL All-Star team and placed seventh in NL Cy Young Award balloting. It’s easy to see why he feels undervalued at $607,000 when similar pitchers are earning nine figure contracts.

deGrom will become eligible for arbitration after the 2016 season and will have four total years of eligibility, meaning he can become a free agent after the 2020 season. The right-hander insisted that there are no hard feelings between him and the Mets, saying, “I love playing here. And I want to be in this uniform for a long time. It was just a decision based on the business side of the game.”

Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole, also not yet eligible for arbitration, felt insulted when the Pirates recently considered cutting his salary despite a Cy Young-caliber season in 2015. With two high-profile players making waves about the unfairness in pay for pre-arb players, one wonders if the MLB Players Association will attempt to negotiate a change in this system when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the season.