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New face of the franchise: Why Jacob deGrom, Mets agreed to an extension

Matt Ehalt
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PENTAGON CITY, Va. — A franchise-changing decision for the New York Mets involved a quick trip to 7-Eleven.

Facing a Thursday deadline for extension talks with Jacob deGrom, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen and COO Jeff Wilpon met with deGrom and his representatives, CAA's Jeff Berry and Matt Ricatto, inside a conference room in Sarasota, Florida, on Monday.

DeGrom and his reps wanted the Mets to up their offer, which at that point had maxed at four years, per a source. The Mets wanted to make sure that deGrom boarded a flight to Manhattan for a physical instead of joining the team in Syracuse.

"I wasn’t going to let the plane take off until we were done with this deal," Wilpon said. "We were holding [deGrom] hostage."

The meetings began at roughly 9:30 a.m., and Van Wagenen estimated that the two sides had to step outside about 10 combined times while numbers and years were exchanged.

At one point, with about five to six hours having passed without a food break, Van Wagenen decided he would make a quick trip to get some snacks.

And that's when 7-Eleven entered the story.

DeGrom loves fast food, and Van Wagenen knows that all too well as his agent. Van Wagenen picked up 10 mini tacos -- for only $2 -- and five taquitos.

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Later that night, the Mets and deGrom had agreed to the five-year, $137.5 million extension that deGrom signed Tuesday.

“At that point, I was willing to eat anything," deGrom said. "We were in there for a while. I only had a couple bites. It was a long day, but definitely excited with the outcome.”

There were no tacos and taquitos for guests Wednesday at a press conference to announce the deal at the Mets' hotel, but the parties could barely contain their excitement now that the reigning NL Cy Young winner may finish his career with the Mets.

DeGrom could be a Met through his age-36 season in 2024, and will have a chance to join the likes of David Wright and Ed Kranepool as players to only play for the Mets.

New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom smiles during a news conference Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in Arlington, Va.  The Cy Young Award winner and the Mets agreed to a $137.5 million, five-year contract, on Monday, March 25, a deal that includes $52.5 million deferred into the 2030s. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is the new face of the franchise. (AP Photo)

"I said before that I’ve loved my time here and wanted to be a part of this team’s future, and you guys made that come true. I can’t thank you guys enough for that," deGrom said Wednesday. "The fans have been great to me. I look forward to being here for a long time — hopefully a lifelong Met — and bringing a championship to New York."

Extending deGrom has been in the works for quite a while, and the Mets used up almost all of their available time to finally reach an agreement with their star pitcher.

Van Wagenen made it clear last summer, while then still serving as deGrom's agent, that the team should consider trading him if they were not going to extend him. Once he became the Mets' GM, he told ownership he planned to do so.

The Mets could have held off on extending deGrom since he still has two years left on his contract and is 30, but Van Wagenen viewed an extension as an important part to his long-term plan. He is operating in a win-now mode, as shown by his aggressive offseason, and having uncertainty surrounding deGrom would have contradicted his moves.

"It's hard to build a long-term sustainable winning plan with uncertainty for which players are going to be part of that team beyond one or two years," Van Wagenen said. "Had we not been able to sign Jacob long-term and there was no interest on his side to be with us, then of course we would have had to look at different scenarios as we try to build a long-term winner. Interestingly enough, both sides agreed he should be part of it."

He added: "You build business plans off guys like Jacob deGrom."

For deGrom, he now has the long-term security he sought, and a deal in line with his peers. The former college shortstop turned ace has always been willing to stay, but he wanted the team to do right by him. He's not the type that wants to establish new record deals, but any deal had to recognize his standing as one of the game's most dominant pitchers.

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Van Wagenen noted how David Wright helped Mets decision makers come up with different deal structures, and Wright later jokingly needled deGrom about how his deal beat deGrom's by $500,000. It's now deGrom who replaces Wright as the face of the team.

"I've expressed how much I love playing here and am excited about what went on this offseason with this team and looking at that lineup, top to bottom, we got a very good baseball team," deGrom said. "I'm excited about what's going to go on this year and in the future. So couldn't be happier to be here in the long term."

In deGrom's last public interview before signing the deal, he admitted that he was not as optimistic that a deal would be done.

The righty clarified Wednesday that part of his uncertainty stemmed from a canceled meeting between CAA and the Mets, which ultimately got rescheduled for Monday.

That Monday meeting, filled with tacos and taquitos from 7-Eleven, finally ended the debate about whether the Mets could and would retain their ace.

He's here for at least four more seasons, and Van Wagenen expects great things for both deGrom and the team.

"Mets fans can celebrate their ace being a part of us for the long haul," Van Wagenen said. "Our team, our clubhouse, now has a leader that can carry us into the 2019 season starting [Thursday] and will help us host championship parades in New York City for years to come."

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