Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
It was weeks ago now, long before any of us noticed, that Brian Cashman and Brodie Van Wagenen began talking. The reason seemed simple enough -- Cashman needed pitching, and Van Wagenen had it.
But, as anyone who follows New York baseball knows, this was no small thing at all, and was in fact the beginning of a major change. For years, the Yankees and Mets simply did not believe that a significant deal between them was possible. Now, somehow, they were talking about Noah Syndergaard and others.
Syndergaard did not ultimately become a Yankee, of course. But it got closer than anyone would have thought possible, and that very fact brings major, positive ramifications for years to come. We can no longer dismiss the chance of a major blockbuster transpiring between the teams.
This shift is largely a result of the interpersonal dynamic between Van Wagenen and Cashman. Always collegial when Van Wagenen was an agent, the two hit it off immediately this fall as counterparts. It did not take long after Cashman congratulated Van Wagenen on getting the job that the two were talking about players and possible deals.
Cashman never had a particularly close relationship with Van Wagenen's predecessor, Sandy Alderson (though he is very friendly with Omar Minaya, and once talked about hiring him). Cashman and Alderson still vehemently disagree over why a 2017 trade for Neil Walker fell apart, and those wounds never healed. That was one reason why, when Jacob deGrom briefly became available last summer, the Yankees did not think they had a real chance of getting him.
They were right. Beyond Alderson, Mets ownership is also reluctant to send a star player to the Bronx, and help they Yankees win a championship. The Wilpons are fans, too, and they know how that would play with their base.
Enter Van Wagenen, the disrupter. He is a dealmaker, uninterested in preconceived limitations. Cashman has always presented himself as willing to talk to the Mets. So, they began talking.
Shortly after I arrived in Las Vegas last week, before the winter meetings even began, a high-ranking executive from one of the clubs told me that the Mets and Yanks were in discussions over something. The person wouldn't say more, but that tidbit was itself interesting, though I didn't yet know how big a story it would become.
I spent much of the day Monday trying to figure out what they were talking about. Then, around 6 p.m. local time, my colleague Jim Duquette ran -- and I mean literally ran -- from the MLB radio set to our SNY setup with a hot tip: It was a three-team deal involving the Marlins, sending Syndergaard to the Yankees and J.T. Realmuto to the Mets. One version had Gary Sanchez headed to Miami. Another had Sanchez headed to Queens (I still don't have all details of how that would have worked). Another scenario involved Miguel Andujar.
This couldn't possibly be true, right? It sounded like a fantasy trade.
But as the evening went on, one source after another confirmed the talks, both to me and other reporters like Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, who also had a strong beat on it.
A few sources pushed back, then apologized, admitting that they were unaware of the talks, because they were happening on such a high level. As the night wound on, Cashman was "pushing hard" to get a deal done, according to a source involved directly in the talks.
Ultimately, both sides went to bed around 2 a.m., and cooler heads prevailed in the morning. The Mets couldn't stomach Thor in pinstripes -- this would have been an extreme first volley --- and the Yankees accelerated their pursuit of J.A. Happ.
The next day, I said to a Mets official that, even though the trade hadn't happened, the talks themselves proved a new era for relations between the two New York teams was possible. The official agreed with that takeaway, and said that a deal with the Yankees could happen now at any time.
The Yanks ultimately left Las Vegas with Happ, and the Mets with Jeurys Familia. The Mets signed Wilson Ramos a few days later. But none of those acquisitions will prove as significant as the Syndergaard talks, which laid groundwork for a relationship that has a chance to captivate New York baseball fans for years to come.