Noah Syndergaard is finally back in the majors, as the Mets have reinstated the right-hander from the 60-day injured list. Syndergaard will start the second game of New York’s doubleheader with the Marlins today, and officially act as the 29th man for the twin bill. Catcher Chance Sisco was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.
It was almost exactly two years ago that Syndergaard last pitched in a big league game, tossing seven innings in a 7-6 Mets win over the Braves on September 29, 2019. The former All-Star then underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020 and was initially projected to return around midseason, but a bout of elbow inflammation delayed Syndergaard’s return even further.
Now, the man they call “Thor” will only make a cameo appearance or two in the Mets’ final few games, though Syndergaard will surely feel comforted by getting some proper game action under his belt before another long offseason. Syndergaard isn’t expected to work as a true starting pitcher, as he will serve as an opener today and could see work out of the bullpen for any other appearances.
Syndergaard’s extended absence was far from the only thing that went wrong for the 2021 Mets, and given how some pitchers don’t look quite themselves in their first outings back from TJ surgery, it isn’t any guarantee that a healthy Syndergaard would’ve provided a midseason boost even if he had met his projected recovery time.
Between a 2017 season that was limited to 30 1/3 innings due to injuries, and now the 2020-21 campaigns, Syndergaard has already endured three lost seasons in his brief MLB career. When he has been able to pitch, Syndergaard has looked like a top-of-the-rotation arm, posting a 3.31 ERA, 26.4% strikeout rate, and 20.7 K-BB% over 716 innings from 2015-19.
It makes for one of the winter’s more intriguing free agent cases, as Syndergaard will hit the open market at the end of the year. An argument can certainly be made that the Mets should issue a qualifying offer to Syndergaard, as a one-year contract in the $20MM range is a worthy investment for a frontline pitcher and Thor might be apt to take such a deal as a pillow contract to set himself up for a longer-term deal in the 2022-23 offseason. Retaining Syndergaard would also provide some rotation depth in the event that Marcus Stroman leaves in free agency.
On the other hand, the Mets might have some natural reservation about committing $20MM to a pitcher who has missed essentially two full years. With Robinson Cano’s contract returning to the books, the Mets will have less payroll space to either re-sign such noteworthy free agents as Stroman, Syndergaard, Javier Baez or Michael Conforto, or to acquire suitable replacements for the roster. Then again, owner Steve Cohen might not consider the luxury tax threshold to be an impediment for the Mets’ to-be-determined next president of baseball operations, and Cohen might be more motivated to spend big after his club’s disappointing season.
From Syndergaard’s perspective, he’ll at least get a bit of a showcase to prove that he is healthy, even if a handful of innings won’t necessarily assuage the concerns of any interested teams looking to sign him this winter. His free agent market could be hampered by the specter of draft pick compensation if he did reject the QO, but Syndergaard’s ceiling is high enough that an enterprising team could still be willing to take the plunge on more than one guaranteed year.
New York claimed Sisco off waivers from the Orioles in June, and the catcher appeared in only five games with the Mets at the big league level. Sisco had some respectable numbers in part-time duty with the O’s over the last two seasons, but his defensive struggles and a big lack of production at the start of 2021 led the Orioles to part ways with the former top prospect. For the season as a whole, Sisco is hitting only .149/.241/.189 over 83 combined plate appearances with New York and Baltimore.