Why Jacob deGrom’s move to Texas won’t hurt his value

The Texas Rangers got their two big free-agent hitters last offseason by signing middle infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Now they have their personal ace in Jacob deGrom, who signed a five-year, $185 million deal with the team on Friday night.

It’s big news for us in fantasy baseball, even if it means primarily that baseball’s best pitcher, if healthy, has switched teams. To this point, from 2020 through 2022, deGrom has all of baseball in ERA (2.05) and WHIP (.73) among pitchers who pitched at least as many as his 38 starts or 224 1/3 innings during that time had picked up pace and led in ERA by almost four-tenths of a heat and WHIP by almost a quarter of a baserunner. deGrom also had 17 games with double-digit strikeouts in those three years and ranked third in baseball behind only Gerrit Cole (21) and Corbin Burnes (20).

The problem, however, is that every contract deGrom landed this winter wouldn’t improve the main obstacle to him becoming the No. 1 pitcher in the fantasy: health. Again, he made 38 starts in the last three seasons and missed 188 of 384 Mets games (49%). Cole and Burnes, meanwhile, made 75 and 70 starts, while four pitchers (Jose Berrios, Dylan Cease, German Marquez and Aaron Nola) made twice as many starts as deGrom (76).

deGrom has dealt with a spate of various injuries over the past three seasons, including back, neck, hamstring, oblique, elbow, forearm and shoulder problems. If there’s one encouraging statement to be made about his prospects for a healthy 2023, it’s that he finished last season with 12 strong starts (including his one postseason round) and passed a physical with Rangers, which certainly is suggesting that he is healthy for the time being. Realistically, that might mean he can double last year’s total — that would mean 22 starts and 128 2/3 innings — or even two-thirds of the way to his last full season in 2019 — meaning 25 starts and 157 1/ 3 innings.

Any threshold, pitching at the high level deGrom typically does, would be enough to pick him in the top 10 starting pitchers. I moved him to No. 8 in the points leagues, which is still a top 20 pick overall, if only because I see the Rangers’ supporting cast is a bit weaker than the Mets, plus Texas’ Globe Life Field, while it’s a much more pitch-oriented environment than its predecessor across the street, it’s still slightly more pitch-friendly than New York’s Citi Field.

However, it’s not difficult to make the case for deGrom as Fantasy’s No. 1 pitcher, just as his injury history makes him a daunting pick in the top 20 for the position.

Incidentally, deGrom’s arrival in Texas creates additional interest within the team itself. With Bruce Bochy also coming out of retirement to manage the Rangers, the team should be in the wildcard mix. For fantasy managers, for our planning purposes – especially those of us in head-to-head play – it’s much better to have teams playing potentially meaningful September games.

deGrom could also reduce the Rangers’ chances of going with a six-man rotation, as they’ve done from time to time in recent seasons, as they look to maximize his use when they’re available. That means a greater chance of every fifth day plan for fellow starters Jon Gray, Martin Perez, Jake Odorizzi, and possibly Glenn Otto or Dane Dunning, and it makes each pitcher a slightly more attractive fantasy pick.

The Rangers’ more accurate picture is also one to watch more closely during spring training, as the team is likely to win more games, potentially meaning a handful more defensive chances. Jose Leclerc should be the favorite when camps open but he could face competition from Jonathan Hernandez, Joe Barlow or an off-season acquisition.

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