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.

A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. argonbunnies January 14, 2015 at 2:18 pm
    I don’t view Thor as untouchable, but if he’s our best chip, make sure you get back the best player for him that you can. If Zack Wheeler is our best chip, then move him instead; I have enough confidence in Thor to roll the dice on giving him Wheeler’s job.

    The Mets need better defense in the middle infield, but that doesn’t mean they need an elite overall shortstop. Using our assets to acquire a star at another position, and filling SS with a weak-hitting glove man, would be preferable to spending all our chips on a rental like Desmond. The guy I really want is Goldschmidt; he may be unavailable, but a few guys have already been moved this offseason who we would have said that about.

    • DaveSchneck January 14, 2015 at 8:35 pm
      My thoughts precisely. I am no Sandy lover, but one thing I will give him credit for is his marine-like discipline. Be it right or wrong, he’s not going to blink. I am quite sure that he would deal Syndergaard, or another young arm for that matter, but he isn’t going to do so unless he gets what he wants – either an established star that is healthy and controllable, or a young low-cost blue chipper that is very likely to succeed.

      One year of Desmond for the top two prospects just doesn’t make sense. It is hare for we Met fans to separate the continued lack of pulling the trigger from the one specific move (me included), but I understand not dealing for a discounted Tulo until you can see he is recovered, and I understand passing on potentially one year of Desmond for your best prospects. I am quite OK with them being “in” for 2015 as opposed to “all in” if it diminishes the likelihood of a long run of high quality baseball.

      I agree that today, that up-the-middle defense is the bigger issue than landing a star SS. Alderson knows this as well. The clock is ticking on him, and if he fails to address that issue he will have essentially failed this offseason. So, I’ll give him a little more time to swap out his veteran pitcher and find an insurance policy for Flores not named Ruben Tejada.

      Lastly, I think Backman blurted out this weekend what Alderson is thinking as well. Matz is the guy they will hang onto regardless, as he is the only lefty on track to make the MLB rotation, and he impressed last year at A+ and AA more than Harvey, Wheeler, or Syndergaard. We all know that this means nothing until they do it in the bigs, but they have a lot of depth from the right side. The almighty Thor, or even Wheeler, will go if needed, but only when it makes absolute sense. In the meantime, find some other ways to upgrade the 25man roster and up-the-middle infield defense. No excuses not to.

      • Vilos January 14, 2015 at 9:07 pm
        Amen except for the need to address SS this offseason. It must be addressed but Tejada as a fall back for 2015 is ok.
      • argonbunnies January 14, 2015 at 10:10 pm
        Scouts outside the Mets don’t think Matz is anywhere close to Syndergaard in terms of pure stuff. Matz may have other things in his favor, but certainly doesn’t have the upside of a guy who throws 98. I don’t really know enough about both guys to compare in detail, but in general I’d go with the higher ceiling.

        As for Sandy’s refusal to “blink”, I think we’re past the point where we should congratulate him just for not being other teams’ patsy. He was brought in here to change things and add talent to the organization, and while he’s had his moments, he certainly hasn’t been as active on that front as many GMs. Sandy speaks (and apparently thinks) only in terms of addressing specific needs one move at a time, while the A’s and Rays and Padres have shuffled a ton of bodies through a ton of positions because they’re intent on improving the team overall in whatever way they can. If you play the opportunistic “buy low, sell high” game, you can’t predict what sort of team you’ll wind up with (sluggers? control and defense? strikeout pitchers?), but you will wind up better off than you started (if you evaluate correctly).

        Sandy has made a small number of real evaluation calls in his time here — Pagan and Dickey, really — and has otherwise been passive, waiting for the obvious. I don’t know how many of Preller’s manic moves in San Diego were actually the right ones, but the thing he’s trying to do is what Sandy should be trying to do — buy low on Kemp and Myers, sell high on Smith, Rivera and B prospects, and improve your team however you can.

        • DaveSchneck January 14, 2015 at 11:37 pm
          No doubt Syndy is ahead on stuff. However, when building a staff, different looks on successive days has some value. Mets have three hard throwing RHP right now, will likely deal Gee, leaving them with Colon and Niese to provide some alternate looks. Also, there are a lot of stuff guys around, but separating the men from the boys in the rarified air of elite MLB pitching requires intangibles that are very difficult to project, such as command, guile, composure, rising to the occassion, health, maturity, etc. I think Backman and Viola may think Matz is stronger in those categories, kind of like deGrom and to a lesser extent Gee.
        • argonbunnies January 15, 2015 at 12:21 am
          If all those Thor/Matz comparisons are true, then I’m with you 100%!

          As for different looks, I think it’s nice, but not as important as running a good pitcher out there every day.

          If the Mets really cared about variety, they could stop teaching every single minor leaguer a slider and change-up. Splitters, slow curves and cutters are pitches too! Heck, take some guys who probably aren’t gonna make it and let them try screwballs and knucklers! But splitters in particular — there are so few good ones in MLB today that anyone who can throw one has a huge advantage of unfamiliarity.

        • argonbunnies January 17, 2015 at 8:09 pm
          Okay, I’ve tried to reply like 6 times, and I cannot tell what’s getting me “awaiting approval” flags.

          Basically, I agree with Dave.

  2. Paul January 14, 2015 at 2:58 pm
    I’m not attached to Syndergaard, but it doesn’t make sense to trade him (and another prospect) for one year of Ian Desmond.

    You can say “sign Desmond to an extension,” but it certainly looks like he’s committed to testing the free agent market next off-season.

    I’d like to see Sandy Alderson be more aggressive, but this wasn’t a good deal for the Mets.

  3. friend January 14, 2015 at 3:23 pm
    It is the appeal of having a player whose name anagrams to “Darn Horny Adages”.
  4. david January 14, 2015 at 6:29 pm
    I have come to the conclusion that it is simply a monetary decision, and not a baseball decision. The Wilpons are desperate to get rid of as much debt as possible after the Madoff debacle and need money to build their version of paradise (retail, residential and al fresco dining) in Flushing. The fact the team will be meh does not really matter, and the best thing the fans could do is stay away; take out full page ads; or pool our money and do a fan buyout.

    Flores flopping is one, but not the only way this team’s season goes down the drain. I began to list a few but do not want to tempt fate which already seems to take an unhealthy interest in the Metropolitans.

    • John D. January 14, 2015 at 10:28 pm
      It’s completely a monetary decision. Syndergaard is just a convenient excuse. It’s not just that they will not be able to resign Desmond next year (of course, they can’t), its that they can’t afford the $11 million he will make this year. They signed Cuddyer for $8.5 million this year and they have to dumb Gee’s salary to off set it. Evidently, there are no takers for Colon. To afford Desmond’s $11M, they would have to dump Colon, which they can’t do right now. Yet another demonstration of how we have no hope as long as Fred and Jeff own the team.
  5. Vilos January 14, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    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.

    I dont fully agree. They have a plan B for 2015, which is Tejada and Reynolds.
    We know Tejada can play average defense, so that solves the real problem.

    They dont have a plan B for 2016 and beyond. Thats what they still have to work on.

    • argonbunnies January 14, 2015 at 9:58 pm
      Yeah. It wouldn’t surprise me if Reynolds is the player Tejada was in 2011-2012. That guy won’t kill you.
    • Dan Capwell January 15, 2015 at 6:47 am
      Reynolds and Tejada isn’t a plan….it is the equivalent of throwing sh$t at the wall and hoping some sticks. Although I don’t know why anyone would want to do that!
      • david January 15, 2015 at 7:51 am
        Call me crazy, but I have a funny feeling about Matt Reynolds. Sometimes guys surprise you when they get that chance, and intangibles that scouts don’t necessarily grade out make the difference between success and failure.

        Admittedly I’ve never seen him play, not once. But reading about his progress through the minors I get the sense he may surprise Mets fans.

        • Dan B January 15, 2015 at 9:44 pm
          Reynolds reminds me of Jesus Feliciano. In 2010 he was a hitting machine in the minors but scouts weren’t impressed. Fans fell in love and wanted him in the bigs. The scouts were right. I haven’t read many glowing scouting reports on Reynolds.
      • Vilos January 15, 2015 at 8:45 am
        Tejada does’t fit your definition. They been throwing him against the wall since Reyes left. So, its probably safe to say, he’s a “known commodity”.
  6. Mike C January 16, 2015 at 10:11 am
    A year of Noah might well be worth a year of Desmond. Five or six years of Noah is worth so much more than that, provided he stays healthy of course, that the whole discussion seems absurd. Yeah, his Vegas old-stat numbers look iffy upfront but I think Cy Young would toss a 4.00 ERA in the Nevada high-desert air.

    A rotation of Harvey/deGrom/Noah/Wheeler with Montero or Niese or Matz bringing up the rear for years and years is worth a lot more than blowing that load just to become a fringe WC contender in 2015.

    If this ownership was committed to spending commiserate to market, carrying a top 5 or 6 payroll as playing in the five boroughs demands, we wouldn’t have to fret over decisions like this.

    But as long as we’re saddled with absentee landlord ownership that will only put up a payroll a little better than an Oakland or a Tampa, this is the proper path.

  7. Carl January 16, 2015 at 2:43 pm
    I think it’s hard to blame the mets for not trading Syndergaard for Gregorius, when what the DBacks got for Gregorius was a guy who isn’t nearly as valuable as Syndergaard.

    I also think it’s a little unfair to say that Flores is the difference between playoffs and a “lost season”, which sort of implies that the team is out of contention in august. That’s like a 15 game swing, which is way more than Flores can hope to give. I think a few games above .500 would make for a successful mets season

    • Dan42 January 17, 2015 at 7:41 am
      I’d blame them if they did Syndergaard for Gregorius, Gregorius is just not that good.
  8. Bat January 16, 2015 at 8:32 pm
    Cappy, do you have a source for saying that Zobrist was offered by the Rays to the Mets for Syndergaard in a straight 1-for-1 swap?

    I read in various places that the Rays were looking for two high-level Mets prospects in exchange for Zobrist: something more like Syndergaard and Herrera for Zobrist.

  9. Bat January 16, 2015 at 8:54 pm
    Cappy, I too took special note of Backman calling Matz the best pitching prospect as I thought it spoke against Joe’s theory that Backman is a “good company man” and that’s why he complimented Flores.

    I agree that I do not think the Mets brass were happy to hear Backman ranking Matz ahead of Syndergaard when the Mets this offseason seemed very willing to deal Syndergaard for Tulo, Desmond, or perhaps others. I think they would be happier if Backman talked up Syndergaard rather than put him behind Matz in conversations.