An offseason free of trade rumors swirling around right-hander Noah Syndergaard will almost feel strange at this point, but Mets general manager Brodie Van Wageen said in a conference call to address today’s dismissal of manager Mickey Callaway that the team will not trade Syndergaard or embattled closer Edwin Diaz this winter (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Tim Britton):
“Edwin Diaz is going to be on this team next year. Noah Syndergaard is going to be on this team next year,” said Van Wagenen. Notably, that was an unprompted assertion from the GM, who is entering his second offseason at the post.
Syndergaard has been a fixture on the rumor circuit for the better part of two seasons, as teams have persistently inquired about the right-hander’s availability amid postseason misses and uncertain offseason approaches. While most expected the Mets to take a seller’s approach at the 2019 trade deadline, though, Van Wagenen & Co. loaded up for the 2020 season with a surprise acquisition of Marcus Stroman. Today’s comments not only emphatically double down on the fact that the Mets view themselves as contenders but also preemptively put to bed any speculation about moving Syndergaard for MLB-ready help in other areas.
As for Diaz, the once-dominant Mariners closer looked like a potential change-of-scenery candidate after the 2019 season proved to be an unmitigated disaster. The 25-year-old’s strikeout percentage dropped from 44.3 percent in 2018 to 39 percent in 2019 as his walk percentage jumped from 6.1 to 8.7. But Diaz’s true downfall was his alarming susceptibility to the long ball. After allowing an average of just 0.61 homers per nine innings pitched with Seattle in 2018, Diaz’s HR/9 rate soared to an untenable 2.33 with the Mets in 2019. The flamethrowing righty maintained his velocity, but the uptick in walks and home runs serve as clear indicators of trouble locating the ball.
The bottom-line results — a 5.59 ERA, seven blown saves and an eventual removal from the closer’s role — were about as poor an outcome as one could’ve forecast following the trade that brought Diaz to Queens. However, it seems there’s no thought to parting ways a la Sonny Gray and the Yankees, as the Mets remain confident they can get Diaz back on track. He does have three remaining seasons of club control, so the upside with Diaz is enormous if he can right the ship. Syndergaard, meanwhile, is controlled through the 2021 season.
With both Syndergaard and Diaz seemingly written in ink on next season’s roster, the question for the Mets will become one of who’ll slot in alongside them. Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Stroman will join Syndergaard in the rotation, but with Zack Wheeler hitting free agency, the Mets will need to add a fifth starter (plus some depth to stash in the upper minors). That’s especially true given that Anthony Kay, perhaps the organization’s most MLB-ready rotation prospect, was sent to the Blue Jays as part of the trade to acquire Stroman.
In the bullpen, Jeurys Familia had a similarly disappointing year to the one through which Diaz struggled. Robert Gsellman had his own struggles before going down with a partially torn lat that ended his season. That trio will return alongside righty Seth Lugo and lefty Justin Wilson, both of whom pitched well, but the Mets will surely be in the market for some bullpen reinforcements once again.