Pedro Martinez only had to look in the mirror for much of his career to recognize baseball’s best pitcher.
These days the Hall of Fame right-hander views Jacob deGrom as holder of the title, even with the health issues that prevented the Mets ace from pitching for nearly 13 months before his Aug. 2 return. But just because the 34-year-old deGrom possesses that kind of talent doesn’t mean he should expect a record payday this offseason, according to Martinez.
Last winter, Max Scherzer, who turned 38 in July, signed a three-year contract with the Mets for a record average annual value of $43.3 million. Martinez indicated Tuesday that deGrom might have to lower his sights if he was planning to top that number upon opting out from his contract. DeGrom has said on multiple occasions he plans to opt out after this season.
“When you talk about Scherzer, he is going out there and has been the most durable pitcher in the big leagues in the last 15 years, so that is a human freak — you just don’t find those every day,” Martinez told The Post. “Jacob is going to have to really look into where he belongs and how much can he offer for the Mets, because the time away from the bump also diminishes your contract. It diminishes your price, but I still trust deGrom to be wise and I don’t see him in another uniform. I have a hard time seeing him in any other uniform.”
DeGrom has started four games for the Mets since his return from a stress reaction on his right scapula that was diagnosed in spring training. In 23 ¹/₃ innings he has struck out 37 batters and pitched to a 2.31 ERA.
Martinez, who spent four seasons with the Mets near the end of his career and will attend Old-Timers’ Day on Saturday at Citi Field, was asked about the tightrope deGrom is walking in trying to give maximum effort while ensuring he doesn’t sustain another injury that will affect his next contract.
“This is a risk that all of them are going to have to take,” Martinez said. “The Mets are going to have to take a risk on deGrom probably getting hurt again and deGrom is going to have to take a risk, probably having to see his salary a little bit lower than he expected because of the health issues. It’s a give and take, so find a balance.”
Martinez’s admiration for the two-time Cy Young award winner deGrom runs deep.
“With all due respect to everyone who is doing great, I mean you can’t overlook [Justin] Verlander, Scherzer, guys like that, I still have to think deGrom is the best pitcher in all of baseball,” Martinez said. “If he stays healthy, I think he is just going to continue to do what he was doing. I don’t see anything diminishing — his stuff is still as crisp as there is — and he knows how to pitch. He has that poise, he has that presence on the mound, but that is very unique. You don’t get a Jacob deGrom every day. If you want a perfect pitcher that you are going to make with a computer you make Jacob deGrom.”
Martinez belonged to talented Mets teams from 2005-08 that only once reached the postseason — in part because of his health issues. More than a decade later, Martinez can say the Mets have arrived.
“This is the first time ever that I have seen and believed that the Mets can do anything,” he said. “Anything that the Dodgers can do. Anything that the Houston Astros can do, the Yankees — any team in baseball.”
Before attending Old-Timers’ Day on Saturday he will be at St. James Park in The Bronx for three hours beginning at 11 a.m., distributing school supplies donated by his foundation. Students must be present to receive a book bag filled with supplies.
“I just want to give back,” Martinez said. “I miss New York and miss my fans. I miss my fan base in Queens. There are so many Dominicans. I wanted to impact more of the community while I was there. … My time seemed to be so limited, but I am still thirsty for some hugs and some exchanges with the fan base in New York.”