After weeks of trade rumors centering on longtime Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, the club found a taker for the right-hander Sunday. Toronto sent him to New York, which many anticipated would happen, but not to the NYC-based team anyone was expecting. Instead of shipping Stroman to the World Series-contending Yankees, the Blue Jays dealt him to a Mets team that’s five games under .500 (50-55), six back of wild-card position and will have to jump over five other NL hopefuls down the stretch to earn a playoff spot.
In all likelihood, Stroman won’t be part of a postseason-bound franchise this season. Nevertheless, the Mets decided it was worthwhile to surrender two prospects from an already below-average farm system for Stroman. The Mets gave up Triple-A left-hander Anthony Kay and Single-A righty Simeon Woods Richardson to land Stroman and his remaining year and a half of team control. Now, the Mets could turn around by Wednesday’s trade deadline and make significant subtractions from the rotation Stroman just joined. They did send lefty Jason Vargas to the Phillies on Monday, but the Mets have two much bigger fish – righties Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler – who have frequented the rumor mill of late.
There shouldn’t be pressure to move Syndergaard, who’s under control through 2021. However, Syndergaard would surely bring back more in a trade than Stroman, enabling the Mets to somewhat reload their farm after taking more pieces from it Sunday. Likewise, it’s not a must for the Mets to wave goodbye to Wheeler. Although the 29-year-old’s a pending free agent, the Mets could keep him and try to work out an extension – which has at least come up as a possibility. Alternatively, the team could retain Wheeler through the season and issue him a qualifying offer if it’s dissatisfied with the trade offers that come in this week.
For now, the top of the Mets’ 2020 rotation looks like this: Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard, Stroman. On paper, that would be one of the game’s most formidable trios, but we may never see them in action together.
Unlike the Mets, the Blue Jays aren’t aiming to contend in 2020, which is a major reason why they traded Stroman. Expectations were Stroman would fetch at least one ballyhooed top 100 prospect in a trade, but that didn’t end up happening.
In Kay, the Blue Jays picked up a near-to-the-majors 24-year-old whom Baseball America (subscription required) ranked as the Mets’ fourth-best prospect prior to the trade. The Mets chose Kay 31st overall in the 2016 draft, but he dealt with an elbow injury that year and then underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017. As a result, Kay didn’t pitch competitively for the organization until last year. However, with help from a fastball that can reach 96 mph, Kay has quickly ascended since debuting in 2018. He thrived at the Double-A level to begin this season before earning a promotion to the top of the minors. Kay has struggled in his first action at Triple-A, though, having put up a 6.61 ERA/6.22 FIP with 7.47 K/9, 3.16 BB/9 and a 30.2 percent groundball rate in 31 1/3 innings. He is now the Blue Jays’ fifth-ranked prospect in MLB.com’s estimation, which posits that Kay could find his niche as a “mid-rotation-type starter” in the bigs.
Meanwhile, MLB.com places Woods Richardson seventh among Toronto’s prospects. Just 18, a year removed from going in the second round of the draft, Woods Richardson has logged spectacular strikeout and walk numbers (11.14 K/9, 1.95 BB/9) with a 4.25 ERA/2.56 FIP and a 49.3 percent grounder rate in 20 starts and 78 1/3 innings at the Single-A level this season. He possesses “premium stuff and mound demeanor to spare,” according to BA, which rated him sixth among Mets farmhands.
Although they’re not premier prospects at the moment, there is optimism in regards to Kay and Woods Richardson evolving into long-term major leaguers. The Mets opted for the surer bet in Stroman, however, and are now evidently hoping he’ll help them to a playoff berth in 2020 (if not a miraculous run this season). But it’s up for debate whether New York should have traded for Stroman, especially considering the team may now weaken the rotation it just strengthened by parting with Syndergaard and-or Wheeler.