Mets: Trading Noah Syndergaard could suck the franchise into a seller’s vortex
By Tim Boyle
Noah Syndergaard trade rumors have dominated headlines about the New York Mets. If they do trade Thor, it’s essential the team doesn’t enter a vortex of trading away their best players every year for the next half-decade.
For the third straight year, the New York Mets are trade deadline sellers. It hasn’t always been this way. In 2015 and 2016, they were buying from other teams and hoping to add to their roster for a championship run. Both years included several veteran players coming to New York in exchange for prospects.
Although the results varied, they did make the playoffs both times. The ending wasn’t the storybook one we hoped for, but at least the team was in position to continue competing. At least, this is what it looked like.
Unlike the past two seasons, the Mets could sell more than their pending free agents. Most notably, Noah Syndergaard is reportedly on the block. By trading him, the Mets could help restock their farm system. However, moving him too soon may suck the franchise into a seller’s vortex.
A large percentage of prospects never become big league stars and even fewer have lengthy careers at the major league level. Back in 2015, the Detroit Tigers entered the year with a pretty loaded roster. Unfortunately for the Motor City, they didn’t play so well and several players on expiring contracts were dealt away.
Yoenis Cespedes, for example, went to the Mets in exchange for Luis Cessa and Michael Fulmer. Fulmer did capture the Rookie of the Year Award the following year, but injuries and poor performance have highlighted his career since. Before missing all of 2019 with Tommy John Surgery, you may remember seeing his name in 2018 trade deadline talks.
Another 2015 trade for the Tigers that is more relevant than ever is the David Price deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. One of those players Detroit received was pitcher Matt Boyd. Well, Boyd is finally performing well in 2019. And guess what? He’s on the trade block.
The Tigers haven’t played too well since. The reloaded 2016 squad finished above .500 but missed the playoffs. They’ve been a perennial trade deadline seller each year thereafter. In 2019, they will once again challenge for the league’s worst record.
The Justin Verlander trade with the Houston Astros isn’t even two full years old, but it’s still worth noting none of the players they acquired in the deal have debuted in the big leagues. While I cannot say their first sip of MLB coffee is delayed, it goes to show just how long a trade for prospects can take to have any positive impact.
I do understand the Verlander trade is different from others because it helped the Tigers escape his contract. There are plenty of other examples, however, of teams constantly selling at the trade deadline unable to escape .500 or below baseball.
Baseball America recently published a piece on how few prospects traded at the deadline actually have MLB careers. From 2003-2014, only 20.1% of prospects traded at the deadline have spent two or more seasons in the major leagues with a positive WAR.
Then there’s the other side of the argument. For instance, last year’s trade between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Rays had the reverse effect. Chris Archer went to for 2019 All-Star Austin Meadows, emerging star pitcher Tyler Glasnow, and prospect Shane Baz. It’s looking like a clear win for the Rays early on.
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What does this have to do with the Mets? Unless they plan on losing for a few more years or hope to trade Syndergaard for MLB-ready talent, they’re probably not going to come away as deadline winners if they move him. Robberies like the one the Rays committed against the Pirates are uncommon. Based on what we’ve seen out of this front office, I’m even more hesitant to trust them.
This doesn’t mean the Mets should hold onto Syndergaard out of fear. For the right deal, of course they should trade him. But what is the right deal? This depends on what they plan to do in 2020, 2021, and even beyond.
The Mets don’t come across as a team on the verge of rebuilding. Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto are their three best hitters and not just compared to the rest of the team. The former two were All-Stars and you could even make a case for Conforto if the roster was a little bigger. They are in win-now mode, which to me, means any trade involving Syndergaard requires someone who could join this group right now. Otherwise, the Mets put themselves in danger of entering the vortex.
Let’s say the Mets do trade Syndergaard for prospects. Even if they get one guy who becomes a future star, it’s likely a few years until he does. By that point, Conforto may be gone. Jacob deGrom will be on the decline and Alonso will have big bucks coming his way via arbitration. The Mets may have an opportunity to win a few games. Their contending window, however, may only extend for a year or two if everything goes well.
The 2015 Mets are an example of what is unlikely to ever happen. They got lucky. Syndergaard, Conforto, and the best of Steven Matz all debuted. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. deGrom was a sophomore and Matt Harvey returned healthy.
Their success didn’t last long because the timing was a limited one. Daniel Murphy hit free agency and Cespedes proved he had only one more healthy year left in him after. They tried to extend their winning ways for one more year. Sadly, they didn’t have enough against Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants to pull it off.
Trades in baseball are focused on three primary goals. One is to move a veteran for youth or vice versa. Another is purely for financial reasons either selling a contract or picking one up with the possibility of getting a more talented player thrown into the deal.
The third option is the one the Mets should have their focus on. This is the traditional trade and the easiest to measure. It’s the one player or two players for another two or three type. They need to pull a Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler or Shelby Miller for Jason Heyward type deal.
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The Mets need to guarantee their team has a really good chance to be better after any trade involving Syndergaard. Otherwise, prepare to enter the vortex of waiting on young players to become stars. And by the time those players you hoped would become good are performing up to expectations, it’s time to trade them, too.