Mets: Dissecting the details of a potential Noah Syndergaard extension

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 08: Noah Syndergaard #34 of the New York Mets in action against the Houston Astros during a spring training baseball game at Clover Park on March 8, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets defeated the Astros 3-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 08: Noah Syndergaard #34 of the New York Mets in action against the Houston Astros during a spring training baseball game at Clover Park on March 8, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets defeated the Astros 3-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

Noah Syndergaard is one of the top extension candidates on the New York Mets. What could a long-term deal with Thor look like?

One of the biggest weaknesses for the New York Mets in 2020 was their starting rotation, which sorely missed the presence of Noah Syndergaard. The 6’6″ righthander had Tommy John surgery last March, which prevented him from appearing in any of the 60 games that the Mets played last season. Syndergaard has battled a couple of other serious injuries in recent years, making only seven starts in 2017 due to a torn right lat and missing time in 2018 because of a finger injury and a case of hand, foot, and mouth disease.

He is among the highest paid players currently on the Mets, with Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and newly acquired Carlos Carrasco as the only pitchers on the Amazins who will make more than Syndergaard’s $9.7 million salary in 2021. With free agency coming up for Syndergaard after the 2021 season, he will likely be in line to make a lot more than that in the coming years.

Though Mets fans sometimes look back nostalgically at Syndergaard’s outstanding 2015 and 2016 seasons and wonder “what happened” since then, the fact is, he has had an excellent career so far. Over his five major league seasons, he has been among the best strikeout pitchers in baseball, with a career strikeouts/nine innings of 9.74 and a strikeout percentage of 26.4%, both of which are among the top 15 in MLB among pitchers with 600+ innings pitched.

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His career 3.31 ERA is lower than that of several pitchers still on the market or already moved during the 2020 offseason, including Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, Masahiro Tanaka, Jon Lester, and Jake Odorizzi.

Syndergaard also ranks highly on several all-time Mets pitcher statistics. His career 1.161 WHIP is seventh in Mets history, and his K/9 percentage is second only to deGrom among all Mets pitchers.

Syndergaard has put together a strikeout/walk ratio of 4.669 that trails only deGrom, Bartolo Colon, and Bret Saberhagen. He also has a career Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 2.92 that ranks fifth in franchise history.

All things considered, Syndergaard’s career regular season excellence and memorable postseason performances should garner him a sizable contract extension, from either the Mets or another MLB suitor.

The current ceiling for pitcher contracts belongs to Gerrit Cole, who received a mammoth nine-year, $324 million deal from the New York Yankees after his stellar 2019 season. Syndergaard’s next contract almost certainly will not top that figure.

The next highest contract for an active pitcher is Stephen Strasburg, who signed a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Washington Nationals after they won the World Series, with Strasburg as the World Series MVP, in 2019. Several other MLB starting pitchers are in the midst of $200 million+ contracts, including Max Scherzer, David Price, and Zach Greinke.

The largest contract the Mets have ever given to a pitcher was Jacob deGrom’s five-year, $137.5 million extension that he signed before the 2019 season. If the Mets want to re-sign Syndergaard, it is unlikely that they’ll give Syndergaard more money than they are paying their two-time Cy Young award winner. deGrom’s contract, in retrospect, looks more team-friendly every year.

Syndergaard, however, could absolutely garner a contract somewhere in the lane of what Zack Wheeler received from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019. Wheeler’s five-year, $118 million deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $23.6 million was deemed “too high to match” by the previous Mets regime, but the new ownership and front office might feel differently about the value that Syndergaard could bring to the team in 2022 and beyond.

If the Mets don’t want to go quite that high, they could also opt for a slightly lesser monetary value more akin to what Madison Bumgarner received from the Arizona Diamondbacks last year. In December 2019, the D-Backs signed Bumgarner to a five-year, $85 million contract with an AAV of $17 million.

I would expect that if Syndergaard wants a five-year contract, he will likely aim for at least a $20 million AAV, which would put a five-year, $100 million deal as a potential option for the Mets. Stroman is making nearly that amount in 2021 after picking up the Mets’ qualifying offer of $18.9 million, so Syndergaard should reasonably be able to net a contract worth at least that much per year if he comes back at some point in 2021 and pitches effectively.

In his first few months as Mets team president, Sandy Alderson has not spoken much about negotiating a potential Syndergaard extension before the start of this season. The most he has said about “Thor” is that he expects him to be back from his Tommy John rehab by June of 2021.

Though Syndergaard has not been on the field since spring training of 2020, he has been vocal on Twitter about his excitement over the new Mets ownership and recent acquisitions.

His Twitter bio also reflects this excitement, reading as follows:

“Dear Steve Cohen, Hi, I’m Noah. Some ppl call me Thor. I’m a Met, working out in Florida, and I just want to win for Mets fans just like you.”

Mets fans can only hope that this verbal enthusiasm means that Syndergaard wants to continue pitching in Queens after the 2021 season.

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Syndergaard is adored by Mets fans and clearly pumped up for what Cohen, Alderson, and the rest of the new front office have to offer. He has pitched well enough to warrant a contract fit for one of the better starting pitchers in baseball. With the influx of cash from Cohen, the Mets finally have enough money to consider offering generous extensions to several of their current core players. If Syndergaard and the Mets want to negotiate a reunion, it will hopefully happen sooner rather than later and result in several more years of “Thor” in Flushing.

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