According to league sources, the Tampa Bay Rays -- true to their policy of practicing due diligence on every big free agent, even if they don’t end up as a match -- have spoken with deGrom’s camp.
In addition to Tampa, league sources said that several other teams had talked to deGrom. His market does appear solid.
There is virtually zero chance that the Rays will be the high bidder on deGrom. At this point, it’s hard to see anyone offering deGrom more than the Mets will. But the Rays’ policy is to check in to make sure that free agents don’t have priorities other than money.
One league source compared this situation to the Rays’ pursuit last winter of free agent first baseman Freddie Freeman, when they emphasized to Freeman the quality of life and the lack of state income tax in Florida.
The Rays offered Freeman $150 million with no deferrals, which is almost certainly more than deGrom will end up with. But Freeman was a position player, which makes for a different calculus for a team that has never carried a payroll of $100 million and can’t afford big free agent misses.
It has long been believed in baseball circles that deGrom would like to play closer to his Florida home (deGrom has never said this publicly). For years, people close to the player mentioned Atlanta as a possible destination, but The Athletic recently reported that the Braves were highly unlikely to sign deGrom.
The Rays are obviously aware of this chatter. Is a match likely? With the money gap that exists between the Mets and Rays, it’s easy to be skeptical. But clearly, it is also worth checking.