Most reports out of New York over the past few weeks have echoed a familiar trio of names when assessing their trade chips: Zack Wheeler, Todd Frazier and Jason Vargas. The three are free agents at season’s end — Vargas does have an $8MM club option ($2MM buyout) that looks increasingly intriguing — making them natural candidates to be shipped out by a 46-54 Mets team that is closer to the NL’s worst record than to the division lead.
The larger source of intrigue surrounds whether the Mets would move assets controlled beyond the current season. To that end, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports within his latest column that the Mets “have been open to dealing” embattled closer Edwin Diaz. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen isn’t in any type of rush to move his offseason headliner, however. Rather, he’s endeavored to receive a comparable package to the one he surrendered in order to get Diaz in the first place. MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo tweets a similar sentiment, noting that the ask on Diaz is “so sky-high that it’s basically a non-starter.” Though ESPN.com’s Buster Olney suggests on Twitter that the Dodgers are a nice match on paper, he doesn’t indicate whether the sides have had actual discussions — let alone whether the Los Angeles organization would meet the Mets’ asking price.
Finding a deal that compares to the one that brought Diaz to New York seems an impossible order. In addition to taking on a hefty chunk of the Robinson Cano contract, the Mets parted with a pair of young players — Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn — who are soaring through the Mariners’ system and up top prospect rankings. Diaz’s strikeout, walk, ground-ball and swinging-strike rates have all gone in the wrong direction. And while he’s tossed six shutout innings since his most recent meltdown — a four-run collapse against the Phillies — he’s still lugging a 4.81 ERA with as many blown saves (four) as he had all of last season.
Even teams that feel they have an answer for Diaz’s struggles wouldn’t be willing to pay a metaphorical dollar-for-dollar rate in negotiations with the Mets. As for taking a lesser deal, the optics of trading him for cents on the dollar while retaining Cano and the sizable portion of his salary they absorbed in that deal would be poor, to say the least. Diaz is controlled through 2022, so a strong finish and/or a 2020 rebound would do wonders for his value.
It seems more plausible that if the Mets were to receive a sizable offer on a controllable arm, it’d be Noah Syndergaard. Olney tweets that the Mets are “seriously listening” to rival clubs that have interest. While Syndergaard hasn’t really thrown in a way that buttresses his own trade value, he’s throwing hard and seems to be in good health. His 4.36 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 would all be career-worsts if the season ended today, but his track record and upside are so impressive that there’ll be loads of interest.
Whether that listening stance has a real chance of turning into meaningful trade talks remains to be seen. Both Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (Twitter links) and Andy Martino of SNY cite the Yankees as the club with perhaps the keenest level of interest in Syndergaard. Both reports suggest that top pitching prospect Deivi Garcia could be a headliner in such a deal, and while GM Brian Cashman plainly stated a couple weeks back that he wouldn’t move Garcia for a rental, Heyman suggests that the Yankees would “surely” put Garcia in play if meant obtaining Syndergaard, who is controlled through 2021.
Of course, the Yankees and Mets simply haven’t dealt with one another on the trade market at any point in recent history, which makes negotiations all the more complicated. And Olney tweets that he doesn’t think the New York rivals will be able to make a deal on such a significant player. Martino writes that the two teams have nevertheless talked Syndergaard “many times” this month, swapping proposals and counterproposals with no real progress being made. A deal is characterized as unlikely, although he also lists the Astros, Padres, Brewers and, to a lesser extent, the Twins as teams trying to pry Syndergaard loose.
That high asking price may not be the case with regard to Wheeler, whose value partially hinges on how well he performs in Friday’s expected return from the injured list. The Mets’ hope seems to be that a strong outing will quiet some concerns about Wheeler’s recent shoulder flareup, but the injury undoubtedly quelled some interest in him. Despite the concerns, Yahoo’s Mike Mazzeo cites a Mets official as calling the chances of a Wheeler trade “pretty high.”
If the Mets don’t find any offers on Wheeler to be viable or, even worse, he experiences renewed shoulder discomfort and is forced back to the IL, the club could retain him and issue a qualifying offer at season’s end. Barring a worrying showing, though, it may be that the Mets will end up simply taking the best offer on a player whose tenure in New York has seen its share of peaks and valleys.