After a failed pursuit of Noah Syndergaard this past July, the Padres remain interested in acquiring the right-hander from the Mets, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription link). SNY’s Andy Martino writes that Friars “are expected” to be more aggressive in their pursuit this time around.
To be clear, there’s not yet any indication that the Mets have any intention of trading Syndergaard. New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen spoke of a desire to return to contention when he was introduced earlier this month. Van Wagenen vowed to be active in the free agent market. Reports have suggested that the Mets will pursue an extension with Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. All of that points to a win-now mentality, and trading Syndergaard, at first glance, would seemingly fly in the face of that line of thinking.
It’s at least possible, though, to utilize Syndergaard as a means of acquiring controllable, MLB-ready pieces to plug into other areas of need on the roster. A healthy version of Syndergaard is among the game’s best pitchers and is an incredibly valuable asset to any club aiming to contend. But the Mets have numerous holes throughout the roster and a relatively thin farm system. The notion that teams operate as strict “buyers” or “sellers” has long been flawed, and it’s at least conceivable that the Mets could pursue free-agent upgrades while simultaneously dealing away a valuable MLB piece for multiple big league assets with greater club control.
The interest is notable, too, from the Padres’ vantage point. San Diego may not yet be ready to contend in 2019, but the very fact that general manager A.J. Preller is exploring the idea of cashing in some of his vaunted minor league depth to acquire rotation help seems to be a continuation of the thinking that led to last winter’s signing of Eric Hosmer. The Padres’ lengthy rebuild is at least nearing its terminus, and plugging in some pieces who can help both in 2019 and in 2020-21 — the likely target for a return to contention — may well be the next step in the process. The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee recently reported that the Padres are eyeing starters young enough to be in their prime in that 2020-21 window, and Syndergaard assuredly fits the bill.
Syndergaard, 26, is under team control for another three seasons and is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $5.9MM next season. He’s spent substantial time on the disabled list across the past two seasons but been legitimately excellent in 184 2/3 innings when healthy: 3.02 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9, 50.4 percent ground-ball rate, 2.56 FIP.
Those three remaining seasons of control, however, mean there’s no reason for Van Wagenen and the front office to feel compelled to move Syndergaard. Even if there’s no immediate desire or optimism regarding a Syndergaard extension, keeping him and deGrom together for at least the next two seasons gives the Mets a formidable rotation nucleus around which to build. And with Zack Wheeler set to hit the open market next winter while Steven Matz also deals with perennial injury issues, there’s an argument that keeping Syndergaard is crucial to the Mets’ plans beyond the ’19 season.