One juicy rumor that was quickly extinguished was the Braves’ interest in Jacob deGrom. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported earlier in the season that many people around the league believed the Braves were the favorites to sign him. Then, Andy Martino of SNY reported something similar. However, all of that was quickly nixed when Ken Rosenthal, one of the most respected names in baseball, said the Braves signing deGrom was highly unlikely, which made sense for several reasons.
The writing was on the wall when the club gave Charlie Morton a contract extension. The rotation has four proven starters in Spencer Strider, Max Fried, Kyle Wright, and Morton, with a bevy of options waiting in the wings for the fifth and final spot. Kyle Muller, Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka, Bryce Elder, and others make for quite the competitive race to round out the rotation.
DeGrom to the Braves makes sense if Morton’s new deal wasn’t struck. The team would be much more inclined to find another piece for the rotation and have an extra $20 million to spend. The Braves have holes on the roster, but starting pitching isn’t one of them. Left field needs addressing, the bullpen and bench could use bolstering, but the rotation is one of the best in baseball as it’s currently constructed. Financially, bringing in deGrom at this point is also another hurdle to overcome.
Currently, the club has around $180 million committed to the 2023 roster after the arbitration process unfolds. With a massive and potentially expensive hole at shortstop, signing a frontline starter is a luxury the Brave don’t have. Despite team executives saying over and over the Braves plan to have a top-five payroll, signing one of the marquee free agent shortstops like Swanson and a frontline starter like deGrom would skyrocket the team’s payroll well into the luxury tax, a place the team has never been .
It was always doubtful the Braves landed Jacob deGrom. He’s set to make somewhere between $40-50 million per season on a contract that could run anywhere from two to four years. That’s one hell of a commitment for an aging, injury-prone pitcher, even if he’s arguably the most talented player to walk the planet. The likelihood he lands in Atlanta is next to zero, but that hasn’t stopped media pundits from projecting that exact scenario.
Jesse Rogers of ESPN joined a panel of six other “experts” that predicted the landing spots and contracts of the top free agents this offseason, and Rogers has Jacob deGrom signing with the Braves to the tune of $125 million over three years.
The price will be worth the double whammy when the Braves steal deGrom from their archrivals. Though it’s a high annual rate, it’ll be over pretty quickly, giving Atlanta a few shots at the title with deGrom but still staying flexible — as Alex Anthopoulos likes to do — with the core of the Braves still in place even when the contract is over. It also gives a little protection for the team based on deGrom’s injury history.
That’s over $40 million per year for deGrom for three seasons. It looks like a great and terrible idea depending on who you ask. Having a five-headed monster of Strider, deGrom, Fried, Wright, and Morton would give the Braves one of the best rotations of all time. But it could mean missing out on one of Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Swanson with so much money committed to deGrom.
If the Braves could somehow guarantee landing one of the big four shortstops while signing deGrom, I’d be all for it, but it’s not realistic. If you had to choose one or the other, it should be filling the position that plays every single day, not bolstering one of the team’s strengths.
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