So This “Thor”– He is Really, Really, Really Good, Right?
The Mets have once again turned down the opportunity to fill their most gaping lineup hole, choosing instead to hold onto prized pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard rather than trade him for an all-star shortstop. That is at least two and possibly three (or more) chances they have passed up on, all of them apparently due to an unwillingness to part with Syndergaard, who also goes by the nickname Thor. He maybe ought to be dubbed “The Sure Thing.”
But is he really?
Acquired in December 2012 as part of the R.A. Dickey trade with Toronto, Syndergaard looked pretty good the following season, with a 9-4 record at two levels. He completely mastered the Eastern League with a 1.07 WHIP and 69 Ks in 54 IP. Then, because the Mets are a horribly run organization, they have their AAA team in Las Vegas, which is a plain awful environment for baseball’s equivalent of finishing school. At Vegas, Noah’s WHIP ballooned by nearly a half of a percentage point, while his K/9 ratio dropped and he walked almost one extra batter per nine innings than he did the year before.
Was this drop off due to the harsh pitching environment or something else? The Mets are betting on the former (a condition they conveniently ignore when touting their hitting prospects). I am not so sure. Wally Backman, to be sure a more qualified observer than I am, recently stated that Steven Matz and not Syndergaard, should be ranked as the Mets top pitching prospect. He added that Syndergaard “still has some work to do.” I’ll bet the Mets brass loved those comments.
So, here come the Washington Nationals and the Tampa Bay Rays, knocking on the Mets’ door with an Offer They Shouldn’t Refuse. The Mets can pencil in Ian Desmond as shortstop next year, all they have to do is send Syndergaard and another prospect to Tampa, the Rays having already landed Desmond from Washington for Ben Zobrist. It’s an intriguing offer. Desmond is still in his prime, slashing 255/313/430 while playing half of his games in that cavernous ballpark. His fielding is about league average, but that should put him ahead of the two incumbent Met shortstops. No thanks, was the Mets response.
Depending on your news source, the Rays offered the Mets Zobrist for Syndergaard straight up, before they shipped him to Oakland. Syndergaard’ s name is prominent in all of the Troy Tulowitzki rumors. Matthew’s site (as well as others) frequently mention how well the Mets match up with the Cubs, pitching for shortstops respectively. One assumes that a reluctance to part with Syndergaard is why Starlin Castro remains a Cub and why Brad Miller is still in Seattle.
I wonder if Mets GM Sandy Alderson regrets trading for Syndergaard, as his name pops up in just about every trade rumor involving the Mets. Arizona apparently wanted him in return for Didi Gregorius. Maybe they are over-valuing him and should be more receptive to overtures. I know I would have tried to make the Desmond deal work if I were Sandy, either by trying to sign Desmond to an extension first or by getting the other teams to include a second player coming back in the deal. I can remember all of the Generation K hysteria back in the mid 1990’s and the offers then GM Joe McIlvaine turned down. We know how that worked out.
Or maybe, it’s a GM version of Punk’d; with the aging Alderson being the foil for his more youthful counterparts. Imagine Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington listening in and suppressing laughs while Rick Hahn dangles a utility infielder in front of Sandy only to demand Syndergaard in return. Then Jon Daniels joining in the conspiracy by asking for Syndergaard in return for a journeyman LOOGY. Perhaps it is Syndergaard’s notoriety that is holding up any deals. He is a known prospect and other teams may be wary of appearing to settle for less in trade discussions with the Mets.
As currently constituted, the success of the Mets in 2015 hinges mainly on the ability of Wilmer Flores to play at least at replacement level at shortstop. This IMO, is even more important than bounce back seasons from David Wright and Matt Harvey. If Flores struggles, he won’t get out of April with the starting job. That will throw a big monkey wrench into the grand plan, as there is no Plan B. The Mets already have one shaky defender at second in Daniel Murphy. An inconsistent (or consistently bad) glove at short will doom them. I get and somewhat approve of the fact that there is a plan that is based on a long stretch of cost-controlled, under-contract players, but this has its own risks. Flores aside, there is also the risk that Syndergaard never plays to his potential (or gets hurt). While sometimes the best trade is the one not made, standing pat can carry its own risks as well. Ask McIlvaine. If the Mets are right about Flores, they are probably playing into October. If he flops however its another lost season. Since I have just about given up on any major changes occurring with this team, we fans will once more endure the spin while the losses pile up. Won’t those be good times?
So what do you think? Hold on to Noah at all costs? Deal him for a bona-fide shortstop or go with Wilmer? Something else? Sound off below.