John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
In a vacuum the Mets made a good trade on Sunday, acquiring Marcus Stroman for two pitching prospects, only one with a high ceiling, in a deal that could pay off nicely in 2020.
Of course, it's not as simple as that, for an organization that is already low on pitching prospects, with Zack Wheeler and Jason Vargas heading for free agency this winter.
So for the trade to make big-picture sense there has to be another smart move or two coming before Wednesday's trade deadline that would both re-stock the farm system and make the Mets better next season.
The question is whether Brodie Van Wagenen can pull it off.
His track record, short as it may be, isn't in his favor, as every Met fan knows by now. For the moment, however, the GM is dealing from a position of strength as the trade deadline nears, with Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard at the top of the list of available starters.
In fact, by removing Stroman from that list Van Wagenen theoretically raised the value of both Wheeler or Syndergaard, since there are so few desirable pitchers on the market.
In that sense, Sunday was a good day all around for the Mets, as the Giants won again, keeping themselves so close in the wild-card race as to make a Madison Bumgarner trade unlikely, and Trevor Bauer threw a ball over the center field fence in a fit of anger as he was being taken out of the game, lending credence to questions about his makeup.
The Stroman deal affects the Yankees as well as the Mets, as pressure mounts on Brian Cashman to add another starting pitcher to his beleaguered rotation. Clearly he didn't value Stroman, more of a ground-ball pitcher than strikeout guy, all that highly or he would have topped the Mets' offer to get him.
After all, it's not as if Van Wagenen gave up can't-miss prospects. Lefty Anthony Kay is a Vargas-type who relies heavily on his change-up and has struggled since being promoted to Triple-A, while Simeon Woods-Richardson has a big arm but at age 18 is miles away from the big leagues.
The problem is more about prospect depth that every organization needs, and it's especially an issue for Van Wagenen after he dealt Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic in the Robinson Cano trade last winter.
So while the Yankees can simply move on to another trade target, the Mets absolutely need to take advantage of their position with three days to the trade deadline, dangling the best starters on the market.
I figured they had to have another deal already in the works, and the one that would make the most sense to me would be trading Syndergaard for a package stronger than the one they gave up for Stroman while committing to keeping Wheeler from leaving.
After all, Stroman is only under control for one more season, and it's way too presumptuous to think the Mets will lock him up long-term. For that matter, it remains to be seen if he's a good fit, since he's a ground-ball pitcher who could be sabotaged by the Mets' poor defense.
Meanwhile, trading Wheeler is certainly the easier move, but as a rental he won't bring back nearly the return the Mets could get for Syndergaard, who two more seasons before reaching free agency.
Big picture, then, I think Van Wagenen needs to make a trade for Syndergaard that brings back more than he gave up to get Stroman. Ideally he'd get multiple players that could help the Mets next season, as well as a high-ceiling prospect to restore the minor-league depth.
Do that and re-sign Wheeler, and together with the Stroman deal the Mets would be a better team in 2020 without giving away too much of the future.
Or, who knows, perhaps they can surprise everyone by bringing back more for Wheeler, because of the scarcity of available starting pitchers, than you'd otherwise expect for a rental. With all of this in mind, SNY's Andy Martino reported Sunday night that the Mets aren't close to another deal, which raises the obvious question:
Are they down the road far enough in talks for either Syndergaard or Wheeler to feel strongly they can add the necessary complement to the Stroman trade, or did they jump at the chance to acquire Stroman without a true plan at hand?
It's hard not to be skeptical, after Van Wagenen's best-laid plans in the off-season blew up on him, but he has a chance here to regain some footing with a Mets' fan base that wants proof he can do the job as GM.
Make a savvy trade, more likely for Syndergaard than Wheeler, on top of the Stroman deal and Van Wagenen will have put the Mets in a better position to contend next year. That's a start, anyway.