In the event the Mets' new front office decides to trade a top starting pitcher, I'm sad to say Noah Syndergaard should be the one to go...
I'd prefer the Mets do nothing, keep their rotation in tact, and rely on cash -- not trades -- to add position players from the free agent market, such as 26-year-old superstar 3B-SS Manny Machado.
However, if due to budget or ideology they need to swap players, I'd hold my nose and deal Syndergaard because he will bring back the most talent of the guys able to be replaced on the open market...
The new front office should want to keep Jacob deGrom because he's coming off a Cy Young-worthy season, has two years before free agency and it'll be nearly impossible to get fair value back in trade.
Inversely, though Steven Matz may be a 27-year-old left-handed starter, he just completed his first 30-start season and has often been injured, so teams will no doubt be skeptical about acquiring him.
Zack Wheeler had a career year in 2018, has an affordable one year left on his contract and he was desired by other teams at last year's trade deadline. It can reasonably be argued that he -- not Syndergaard -- is the best option to trade. But because of increased health concerns and his pending free agency, he'll bring back significantly less than Syndergaard -- and maximizing the trade should be the goal.
The buzz last summer had the Yankees, White Sox, Cubs and Brewers most interested in Syndergaard, who was reportedly scouted by all four teams. I also heard the Cardinals and Indians had and still have interest as I'm sure is the case with other teams.
Syndergaard's return from a strained ligament in his finger last summer went well enough that, given his previous dominance and remaining contract, he should bring back enough talent to complete a deal.
"If they want to trade me tomorrow, I really have no say in what they do," Syndergaard said when rumors swirled before last summer's trade deadline. "I've loved my time being a New York Met. I love the city. I've loved embracing them, and I think they've loved embracing me."
Syndergaard is going to have a terrific career. It would hurt to see him compete for Cy Young awards, make All Star teams and compel competing fans with his humor and ego. But, the free agent market for young, productive hitters is not what it used to be. So, if Syndergaard can bring back multiple position players -- increasing the odds at least one pans out -- the Mets need to do it...
It'll be fun to debate dealing Syndergaard to the Bronx. However, I still don't see a fit. The Mets will want infielder Miguel Andujar, for whom the Yankees will instead want deGrom.
For Syndergaard, the Yankees will probably offer up Gary Sanchez, but he has no place in the National League (even for a team like the Mets that will be in the market for a catcher).
The compromise would likely be outfielder Clint Frazier, who would fit nicely in Queens, but he just isn't enough of a centerpiece to get a deal done. The Yankees adding prospects Estevan Florial and Justus Sheffield or Chance Adams will push talks along, but -- in the end -- I just can't see any of the above being worth the risk associated with sending a big-time talent like Thor to the Bronx,
In terms of asking for players from other teams, based on previous deals for similarly dominant and still-promising young starting pitchers, the Mets should be asking for top ready-for-prime-time prospects like outfielder Corey Ray and infielder Keston Hiura (Brewers), catcher Zack Collins and outfielder Eloy Jimenez (White Sox) and third baseman Nolan Jones (Indians).
However, of the above, only Hiura and Jimenez are among the league's Top 100 prospects, according to MLB.com. To get Syndergaard, the Mets will demand at least one (if not two) of baseball's elite youngsters. And, because the above are still a gamble, the Mets will still want the deal to include at least one proven hitter under team control, such as Andujar.
The point is, it's not going to be easy to find a match because the acquiring team has to feel signing a free agent pitcher is worth less than giving up multiple young hitters for Syndergaard and the likely $18-20 million due to him the next three years. The talent and demand for Syndergaard is out there, the deal can be found, but it's going to take a gutsy, shrewd GM to make it happen.
The point is, just break the bank for Machado and keep Syndergaard. It's the most expensive path, but it's also the easiest and best way to get back to being awesome and entertaining in 2019.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!