As expected, the Mets did not trade Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard before the trade deadline, despite both pitchers being capable of bringing back a collection of top prospects.
The lack of action could mean the Mets did not see an offer worth accepting. Or, after doing their due diligence, they decided to keep their best two pitchers because they can have them through the 2020 season, sign them to long-term extensions, or look to trade them this winter with more teams involved in the bidding.
During the past few weeks, the Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, Phillies, and Braves were all reportedly looking for an elite starting pitcher under team control. More importantly, all five of the above teams had the necessary prospects required by the Mets. None of them landed a top pitcher, but the Pirates came out of nowhere to trade for No. 2 type starter Chris Archer with about 30 minutes to go before the deadline.
I had been hearing the past few days that interested teams were well aware of the extreme asking price for deGrom and Syndergaard. However, while I do believe Mets ownership and their front office would have agreed to the right deal, no team became desperate enough to overpay.
It's possible the Mets were being unrealistic and missed a huge opportunity to inject new, young talent in to their organization, ideally getting back an established position player able to immediately contribute to the big league team.
For instance, in late July, more than one MLB insider told me the Yankees were willing to trade top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield and infielder Miguel Andujar to get deGrom, but the Mets wanted more in the deal.
I've heard Yankees sources say they will make a similar play for deGrom or Syndergaard this winter, especially if they ink Manny Machado to a long-term deal. This is why I'm not bent by the Mets not dealing deGrom or Syndergaard before the deadline.
I agree the Mets should have pulled the trigger if overwhelmed, but if not I preferred both players stay put so the team's next GM can use them how he or she sees fit. It makes no sense to me to deal the team's two biggest assets before hiring someone to rebuild the franchise, unless of course a team was willing to overpay to get them. And that was clearly not the case...
Similarly, the Mets also held on to Zack Wheeler, who entered Tuesday being described to me by an NL assistant GM as "a hot commodity." This is probably why multiple reports indicated he would get dealt this afternoon. Instead, despite hearing from up to six teams, the Mets passed on what -- to them -- must not have been enough to complete a trade.
In addition to keeping deGrom and Syndergaard, I'm okay with the Mets keeping Wheeler.
Again, like deGrom and Syndergaard, Wheeler is also under contract through next season and could be dealt when more teams may have interest in him this winter.
Also, as I said earlier, I just don't think it's right to deal a valuable asset for prospects when a new GM is set to walk through Citi Field's doors in less than three months. Assuming they continue as-is and do not suffer a major injury, Wheeler, deGrom, and Syndergaard should have about as much value this winter as they had the past 30 days.
As a result of Tuesday's action (or lack thereof) the team's next GM will be in good spot when taking over after the season. He or she will inherit two aces under contract for two more seasons, an outstanding No. 3 starter with an affordable year of control on his deal, and three young position players capable of starting at shortstop and the outfield. He or she will also have four prospects in MLB.com's Top 100 and three new kids acquired in deals during the past month.
I want the next front office to be in control of where this franchise is headed during the next five years, which raises the question: Where is this team headed during the next five years?
One thing the new GM can do is quit on 2019, trade deGrom, Wheeler, and Syndergaard this winter for elite prospects, rebuild the roster and be ready to rock again in 2020 and beyond.
That said, my understanding is that the Mets intend to task their next GM with continuing on the current path and push to compete for a playoff spot next season. I guess the thinking is that in addition to having deGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and Amed Rosario, they'll also have Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak, and Jason Vargas under contract for one more season.
The thing is, even with the above players on the roster, if they intend to have a full squad capable of winning close to 90 games, "the Mets are going to have to spend above their break-even line, which is something they never want to do," as their former GM Steve Phillips said Tuesday on SiriusXM.
In 2010, I wrote, "Hope is not a strategy." The same can be said today, especially in MLB's new post-CBA environment.
In this reality, teams like the Mets that play it safe and work from the middle either finish in the middle or at the bottom. The league's most successful teams do not do this. Instead, they are winning because 1) at some point they traded valuable players (like deGrom and Syndergaard) for multiple elite prospects who matured in to elite big-league players, after which 2) they went all in on spending and used cash to build up the rest of their roster.
In keeping Wheeler, deGrom, and Syndergaard, the Mets and their new GM will have multiple, extremely valuable assets that can be dealt for immediate impact players and kickstart a quicker-than-usual rebuild, much like the Yankees did two years ago.
Or, the Mets can keep their two best pitchers and Wheele for next season, blow out their payroll and fill their holes by signing multiple top free agents, such as Manny Machado, Wilson Ramos, and Patrick Corbin.
The Mets seem to believe they can win by doing something in between. However, their past two seasons and a quick glance at MLB's standings should tell them riding the fence could be a waste of time. To 'compete,' and choose the middle, may simply be postponing the inevitable.
DeGrom, Syndergaard, and Wheeler give them options. Now it's time to make a choice...