4:03pm: The Mets “want to move” Syndergaard in a trade, a rival evaluator tells ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Twitter link). The feeling amongst many outside evaluators is that the Mets are “fully intent” on dealing Syndergaard. As to The Athletic’s Marc Carig hears from a rival executive, the asking price on Syndergaard is something in the range of a top-30 prospect “and a couple of other solid pieces.”
3:22pm: Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler have been often mentioned as trade candidates this summer, with Wheeler considered the likelier of the two to depart since he is a free agent after the season. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link), however, the Mets are also exploring a scenario that would see them sign Wheeler to an extension and deal Syndergaard before the July 31 trade deadline.
The upside of this strategy is obvious. Wheeler’s trade value is currently limited due to his rental player status, and the fact that he isn’t scheduled to come off the injured list until Friday, due to a particularly ill-timed shoulder impingement. When healthy, though, Wheeler has shown flashes of being a front-of-the-rotation pitcher, particularly during his impressive 2018 season. In extending Wheeler, the Mets would be able to keep one solid arm in their rotation over the longer term, which would then free them up to make a bigger deadline score now by moving Syndergaard, whose extra years of control and higher talent ceiling have made him an attractive commodity to other teams.
It isn’t known whether the Mets have reached out to Wheeler’s representatives at Jet Sports Management about extension talks, or if Wheeler has any interest in even signing such a deal to remain in Queens rather than testing the open market this winter. Wheeler has a 4.69 ERA over 119 innings this season, though with some solid advanced metrics and ERA predictors (3.66 FIP, 3.85 xFIP, 4.01 SIERA) that suggest he should be pitching better than his actual ERA suggests. On the down side, Wheeler is allowing significant more hard contact than he did in 2018, and a big spike in homer rate (13.7% in 2019 as compared to 8.1% last season) can be seen as the culprit for that inflated ERA.
It all makes for a good but not great platform season for Wheeler. Depending on how he pitches the rest of the way this year, he’ll be heading into free agency without the benefit of a real ace-level season, he turns 30 next May, and he’ll have a qualifying offer hanging over his head. With all of these factors in mind, Wheeler and his reps could prefer the security of an extension (if the price is right, of course) rather than testing what has become an increasingly fraught free agent market over the last couple of years.
Negotiating an extension with Wheeler, of course, would add an extra layer of complications to the Mets’ plans in the final week before the deadline. Naturally you’d think the club would want Wheeler locked up before dealing Syndergaard, though the Mets could also try to get the framework of a Syndergaard deal lined up in advance.
Still, it makes for an awful lot of moving parts within what would be a franchise-altering decision. Syndergaard doesn’t turn 27 until next month and is controlled through the 2021 season via arbitration, and while the right-hander has been more solid than great this season, he has shown he is capable of being a frontline arm when at his peak. The Yankees, Padres, Astros, Brewers, and Twins have all been linked to Syndergaard in rumors, and the Mets are known to be looking for a huge return if they did move the young righty.