On the surface, the Mets acquisition of Marcus Stroman was a good one. With two and-a-half days remaining before the trade deadline, fans find themselves trying to guess what comes next.
A quick analysis of yesterday’s trade will show that the Mets received a young, talented, often but not always dependable starting pitcher. It was something of a foregone conclusion that the Blue Jays were going to deal Stroman, and he was considered to be the best of the obviously available pitchers. That the Mets wound up with him was a surprise, and that they got him for two minor league pitchers, neither of whom are considered to be elite prospects at the moment, despite the fact that they were both among the Mets best prospects, was somewhat impressive.
Still, this trade will likely mean more than just the exchange of one very good pitcher for two potentially very good pitchers. While trade rumors have been tossed around for the last few weeks, actual activity has been relatively limited, until yesterday’s deal. I suppose that the Stroman trade will kick off what is likely to be a strange and impactful week.
Many years it seems that the Mets are just one player away from contending. True, that one player could be Babe Ruth, but still, one player. This year, they’re probably one bullpen away from playing meaningful September baseball. It seems like the Mets stopped playing meaningful games in June. So, while the Stroman acquisition improves this team, what was the point?
Many are suggesting that at least one of the three most-rumored-to-be-traded pitchers are now guaranteed to be gone:
Zack Wheeler – A talented pitcher who, at times, has looked like a top of the rotation starter, and at other times has looked kind of lost. He’s going to be a free agent this offseason, and most people who follow the sport pretty much declared that if the Mets weren’t in a pennant (or wild card, I guess) race by the end of July, Wheeler would be gone. Well, they’re not, so I suppose he probably is. I will say, that the Mets don’t need to trade him, if they’re not getting anything valuable in return. Wheeler’s inconsistency, combined with the fact that age and injuries are starting to catch up to potential, means that they could sign him to an extension for less than it would have cost before the season started. That wouldn’t be very Mets, although neither was the Stroman trade, probably. At the same time, if they don’t trade Wheeler, and they don’t sign him, the Mets will receive a compensatory draft pick next year. I’m skipping some steps on how that happens, but it is what would happen and this does have some value.
Jason Vargas – Despite the fact that fans find themselves watching a Vargas game with fingers semi-covering their eyes, he’s actually been pretty good this year. This is now at least the third week when I’ve stated something like this, so his “pretty good” has also been pretty consistent. He’s going to be a free agent this year as well, and while he isn’t surrounded by the same excitement and hoopla that Wheeler is, he’s also someone who could improve a team, so perhaps the Mets could get something for him. The Mets wouldn’t receive a draft pick if he isn’t traded and then signs somewhere else in the offseason, and it’s unlikely that they’ll need him over the next two months. The question is, could they get enough of a return for him to make it worthwhile. Last year the Mets traded a bunch of players for potential bullpen help. It didn’t. So while it’s likely that Vargas will be on a new team by the end of this week, especially with Stroman joining the Mets, it’s unlikely the Mets get anything especially noteworthy in return.
Noah Syndergaard – For two years now, Syndergaard’s name is thrown around at first mention of potential baseball trades. Last year at this time, it almost seemed like a forgone conclusion that Thor would be gone. This year, it has seemed that it’s a forgone-r conclusion that he’ll be a goner. Between his talent and his contract status there is no pitcher more valuable on this team, and possibly even in the league, and for a team that desperately needs to improve their farm system, Thor is a remarkable trade chip to have. But, before you go looking for your Syndergaard shirts in the retail rack, it’s still possible that he makes his start against the White Sox on Tuesday night, and continues to wear the blue and orange past Wednesday. Before I continue, I need to openly eschew my objectivity. While Noah Syndergaard has yet to consistently live up to his lofty expectations, there is no questioning that the ability is there. For me, every time that he takes the mound, there is a feeling that some special can happen that day. The stats would show that it usually doesn’t, but the vibe is still there. I realize that the farm system is depleted and that’s bad, but it’s hard to be okay with giving that up. Furthermore, trading Syndergaard away almost guarantees that he’ll have a Nolan Ryan-type career, or at least a few Ryan-type seasons. In other words, trading Syndergaard for some top prospects might be a really smart move, especially for a franchise that considers really smart moves a rarity, and still, I hope they don’t do it. Sometimes the heart is louder than the head. All that said, rumors recently have suggested that the Mets are not only seeking high-level prospects in return for Syndergaard, but a Major League ready pitcher would need to be included as well. Now that they have Stroman, the focus could return to acquiring only high-level talent for Thor. I don’t really know how this part of the game is played, the art of these trades, how this sausage gets made, and I’m definitely not invited into the room where it happens. So I can’t tell you what the Mets are requesting, nor what other teams are offering. It’s entirely speculation. Hopefully, since the Mets don’t need to move Syndergaard, they’re keeping their asking price high. And if that price is met, then perhaps they should follow through on the deal (even though I hope they don’t), and if not, then they shouldn’t.
Because the acquisition of Stroman immediately improved this Mets team, seemingly, one of the first questions raised was whether or not the Mets will be buyers, or sellers, or both, this week. If the Mets do choose to try to fix the airplane while it’s in flight, they’re going to have to figure out a way to bring in some dependable relief pitching, something they already thought they did over the winter. While I still believe that Edwin Diaz is much better than he’s played since late May, the bridge from starter to closer is as reliable as the one in Temple of Doom. Yes, it’s a 35-year old reference, but it’s accurate.
This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen proved that the Mets could be innovative and unpredictable. Those moves have obviously not paid off as intended. Over the next few days, we’ll find out what other tricks he has up his sleeve. In all likelihood, it will take some time to understand them and evaluate them, and for them time being, they will probably just leave us guessing.