What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Thursday, as usual, gives us a shortened slate of games. You’ll have to wait until the late night to watch the marquee matchup: the Mets’ Jacob deGrom against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner in a 10:15 PM EDT start at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

If one sets a minimum of 17 starts, Bumgarner is the major league leader in ERA at 2.11. (Clayton Kershaw is 1.79 over 16 starts.) deGrom is fourth in baseball at 2.30, so Thursday evening’s meeting features two NL Cy Young Award hopefuls. Bumgarner, in fact, leads the majors in innings pitched at 170 2/3 and in complete games with four. Along with that, he has a 189/43 K/BB ratio and an 11-7 record. deGrom has made four fewer starts and doesn’t lead in any categories.

The Giants, now in second place in the NL West behind the Dodgers by 1.5 games, have watched the Dodgers make up eight games since  July 10. This month, the Dodgers have had the luxury of playing the slumping Rockies, the woebegone Pirates, as well as the Phillies for six games. Meanwhile, the Giants have had to play the Nationals, Marlins, and Orioles along with the Phillies and Pirates. And as the Giants open up a four-game set against the Mets, the Dodgers head to Cincinnati for a four-game series with the last-place Reds.

The Dodgers and Giants meet for three games next week starting Tuesday and will have six more meetings towards the end of the regular season. The NL West and the AL East have the only truly interesting division races at this point in the season, so many eyes will be on the two teams the rest of the way. The Giants will try to use Bumgarner’s start on Thursday night to propel them the rest of the way.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Houston Astros (Joe Musgrove) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Ross Stripling) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Jerad Eickhoff), 7:05 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Carlos Rodon) @ Cleveland Indians (Danny Salazar), 7:10 PM EDT

Miami Marlins (Jose Fernandez) @ Cincinnati Reds (Dan Straily), 7:10 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (Reynaldo Lopez) @ Atlanta Braves (Rob Whalen), 7:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Tyler Duffey) @ Kansas City Royals (Dillon Gee), 8:15 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma) @ Los Angeles Angels (Matt Shoemaker), 10:05 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley) @ San Diego Padres (Paul Clemens), 10:10 PM EDT

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

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing 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.

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).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

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

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

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.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. 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.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

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, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his 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. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

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.