Following yesterday’s leave of absence for general manager Sandy Alderson, Mets assistant GM John Ricco spoke with the media about the team’s status as deadline sellers and confirmed that they’ll at least listen to offers on top starters Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard (links via Newsday’s Tim Healey and the New York Daily News’ Kristie Ackert).
“We’ll have to consider [it],” Ricco said of fielding interest in the pair. “For me, everything has to be on the table. But you have to look long and hard before you move a game-changing, top-of-the-rotation pitcher.”
Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi were collectively put in charge of the club’s baseball operations while Alderson undergoes treatment for a cancer recurrence, and Healey writes that the three will work together to come to a consensus on roster decisions. While Ricco was the first to meet with the media, it doesn’t appear that any one member of that trio will have final say.
The decision on whether to trade deGrom and/or Syndergaard is the type of franchise-altering move that can dictate the team’s success or failures for years to come. Both pitchers have demonstrated Cy Young-caliber abilities, and while Syndergaard’s recent career has been punctuated by injuries, deGrom is among the early favorites for NL Cy Young honors in 2018. Syndergaard has been out since late May due to a ligament issue in his right index finger but figures to be back on the active roster in advance of this year’s deadline.
deGrom, 30, had a brief injury scare earlier this season when he hit the DL for a hyperextended right elbow, but he returned quickly and without any lingering effects of the injury — at least as pertains to his performance. The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year has been utterly dominant thus far, pacing MLB pitchers with a 1.69 ERA through his first 101 1/3 innings of the season. deGrom has averaged a career-best 11.2 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 and 0.4 HR/9. The right-hander’s 45.8 percent ground-ball rate is right in line with his career rate, and he’s also boasting a 15.3 percent swinging-strike rate and a 37.8 percent chase rate — both far and away the best marks of his career.
Best of all for interested teams, of course, is the fact that deGrom is controlled for two seasons beyond the current campaign. He’s earning $7.4MM in 2018 as a Super Two player and will be eligible for arbitration twice more before hitting the open market. Clearly, if he’s able to maintain anything close to this level of production, his arbitration raises will be enormous, though they’d still be a pittance relative to his open-market value.
Syndergaard, 25, missed the bulk of the 2017 season due to a lat strain but was sharp in his return in 2018, tossing 64 2/3 innings of 3.04 ERA ball with 10.6 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9 and a 47.7 percent ground-ball rate. He’s averaged better than 10 strikeouts and fewer than two walks per nine innings pitched in his big league career so far and, like deGrom, is sporting a career-high swinging-strike rate so far in 2018 (15 percent).
As is the case with deGrom, Syndergaard is a Super Two player who’ll qualify for arbitration four times before reaching free agency. However, he’s a year behind deGrom in terms of service time, meaning he’s controlled for another three seasons and can’t become a free agent until after the 2021 season.
In all likelihood, it’d take a veritable king’s ransom to acquire either pitcher — the type of enormous prospect package that features multiple elite young talents and/or MLB-ready assets who could immediately step onto the Mets’ roster. That type of rotation piece rarely changes hands at the deadline (or at all), and either Mets pitcher would likely be the most coveted starting pitcher available on the summer trade market in recent memory.
Both deGrom and Syndergaard are better pitchers than Sonny Gray, for instance, and neither comes with the contractual obligations that slowed the Justin Verlander trade talks last summer. Jose Quintana fetched a the White Sox a haul headlined by one of the game’s top 10 prospects, Eloy Jimenez, and few would argue him to be a more talented arm than either deGrom or Syndergaard (though certainly his durability and affordable contract made him a highly desirable commodity). Whatever type of return the Mets received for either starter would need to be overwhelming.
It should be emphasized, of course, that the simple fact that the Mets will entertain the idea of trading their top two starters hardly means that either is a lock to actually be moved. To the contrary, Ricco echoed comments made by Alderson earlier this month in downplaying the possibility of a full-scale rebuild. “I really don’t see that as a strategy,” said Ricco. “It’s not something we’ve really discussed, a complete teardown.”