The Guardians have released right-hander Noah Syndergaard following his recent DFA, according to the transaction log at MLB.com. If he signs with a new team by 11:59pm ET tonight, he’ll be eligible for that club’s postseason roster.
Cleveland acquired the former All-Star in a swap of underwater contracts at the deadline, sending infielder Amed Rosario to the Dodgers in hopes that a change of scenery could help get Syndergaard back to form. Syndergaard, who’d pitched to a 7.16 ERA in 55 1/3 innings with Los Angeles, signed a one-year, $13MM deal with the Dodgers over the winter. Rosario, an impending free agent who’d been the Guardians’ primary shortstop since 2021, was hitting just .265/.306/.369 at the time of the swap. Neither player has gotten his performance back up to previous levels since the exchange, however.
The Guards might’ve at least hoped that Syndergaard could stabilize an injury-plagued rotation down the stretch, taking some of the innings that were lost when Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie or Cal Quantrill went down with long-term injuries. That hasn’t happened. Syndergaard made six starts with Cleveland, pitching to a 5.40 ERA with a 12.4% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate in 33 1/3 innings. That 12.4% strikeout rate is the lowest of any pitcher since the time of the trade (min. 30 innings).
Now 31 years old, Syndergaard was one of the most promising power pitchers in the sport early in his career, breaking out as a legitimate Cy Young contender early on. Through his first 518 1/3 big league innings, the 6’6″ righty notched a 2.93 ERA, fanning 27.1% of his opponents and averaging 98.2 mph on his heater along the way. Unlike so many flamethrowers, Syndergaard possessed pristine command, too; his 5.5% walk rate in that stretch was outstanding. His ERA spiked to 4.28 in 2019, but Syndergaard retained premium velocity, strikeout and walk rates while logging a career-high 197 2/3 innings.
Unfortunately, the present-day version of Syndergaard doesn’t look much like that peak version. Tommy John surgery wiped out the 2020 and 2021 seasons for Syndergaard, who serves as something of a cautionary tale and reminder that for as common as the procedure has become, a return to form following such a major surgery is by no means a foregone conclusion. He still boasts outstanding command — he’s walked just 4.9% of his opponents this year — but Syndergaard’s fastball averaged 92.8 mph in Los Angeles and was down to just 91.9 mph during his brief stint with Cleveland. The once-wicked slider that averaged a ridiculous 93.1 mph is down to 85 mph in each of the past two seasons, and his peak 14.2% swinging-strike rate has plummeted to a well below-average 8.2%.
Syndergaard will now hit the market as a depth option for postseason hopefuls. He’ll cost a new club only the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the big league roster. With active rosters set to expand from 26 to 28 players tomorrow, he’ll have a clearer path back to a big league roster, although a team in the midst of a tight postseason race would likely be wary of plugging him right into the rotation. Many have wondered what Syndergaard might look like coming out of the bullpen — he’s only made two relief appearances in his career — and that could be another avenue for him to join a contender’s staff.