Having lost far, far more games than they’ve won over the past couple of months, the Mets’ season is now in shambles, and the team has all but fallen completely out of the playoff race. So with the trade deadline a little more than a month away, rumors and speculation of whether the Mets will be selling, and who they’ll sell, have already been running rampant. And the Mets have already said they will listen to trade offers on almost all of their players.
Of course, the one player that seems to be the focus of these trade rumors is Jacob deGrom. Now, the thought that the Mets could trade their best pitcher isn’t entirely unfounded, as deGrom is having arguably the best season of any pitcher in the league, and even a reasonable return for deGrom at this point would completely rejuvenate the team’s delpeted farm system. Look no further than the return the White Sox got last year for Jose Quintana—a lesser pitcher than deGrom with only one more year of control at the time—that was headlined by Eloy Jimenez, a top-15 prospect in all of baseball at the time of the deal.
So you’d have to think the Mets would be able to do even better than that in a trade for deGrom, and they have gone on record that they are looking for no less than an absolute haul in exchange for their ace. And perhaps one of the only teams set to be buyers at the deadline this season that has the pieces to truly blow the Mets away is the crosstown-rival Yankees. And the media has had quite a bit of fun in recent weeks with the possibility of a trade between the two New York teams.
However, if the Mets are truly looking to be blown away, then a package from the Yankees would have to start with at least one of Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar, both of whom the Yankees have already said they won’t trade. And if you add to that the fact that both teams are always loathe to do business with each other, then a deal between them teams seems almost certainly not in the cards.
As for other potential suitors, the current trade market really does not favor the Mets, as it will be flooded with sellers this year; 13 other teams are currently seven or more games out of a playoff spot. If you also assume the Mets won’t trade their biggest star to a division rival, that leaves only 9 other teams in the playoff race with whom the Mets could make a deal, and not many of those 9 teams have the farm system or young stars necessary to put together a deal the Mets could even entertain.
Houston could potentially offer an intriguing package centered around top prospects Forrest Whitley or Kyle Tucker, and they have more prospects to add to the deal as well, but their rotation is one of the best in the league; they don’t need to make a franchise-altering move. The Indians could offer a deal including Francisco Mejia, but don’t have much depth in their farm system to add to the package. The Brewers have a nice system, but their best prospect, Keston Hiura, might not be good enough to headline a deal of this magnitude. The Dodgers seem like the best fit, with a good farm system, multiple can’t-miss prospects, and a need in the rotation, but their current front office regime has been very adverse to trading their top prospects in recent years.
And that is basically it. Unless the Mets were to trade in-division (which they won’t), none of the other teams in the race have nearly enough to put together a package that would convince the Mets to sell off the best pitcher in the National League. So with a limited amount of teams actually in the market for deGrom, it makes it much harder for the Mets to play the auction game and get a deal they’re really happy with. Of course, there’s also the possibility of them trading deGrom to a non-contending team building for next year like the White Sox, which does open up a whole new can of worms.
But that’s all besides the point. Really, all of this speculation is irrelevant, because the Mets are not going to trade deGrom anywhere. Sandy Alderson is a notoriously conservative general manager, and trading deGrom this season would not only be the biggest move he’s made as Mets GM, but it would signal a seismic shift in the direction of this franchise, and one that would probably be ill-advised at this point.
Trading deGrom right now would all but necessitate going all-in on a complete strip down of the team, and rebuilding from scratch. Now, you may disagree, but if the Mets aren’t planning on replacing deGrom’s value in free agency (spoiler: they’re not), then you can’t expect a bundle of prospects to match deGrom’s value next year, or even in 2020. So trading deGrom makes the team worse over the next few years. And with the position the Mets are in—with lots of older players on short deals, limited financial flexibility, no farm system, and multiple pitchers reaching free agency over the next few years—they can’t just take a couple of years off and then try again. There’s no Yankees-style “quick rebuild” that can be done here to open their window again in a few seasons. There’s just not enough already in the farm system, too much competition for high draft picks, and not enough teams willing to ship off prospects anymore to be able to pull that off.
So if the Mets are going to trade deGrom, it would mean they’d have to undergo a total teardown and completely start over. And there’s really no reason for them to do that. The entire goal of a teardown would be to acquire a good, young core of players, but the Mets already have a good, young core of players. Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Robert Gsellman, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, and even Peter Alonso form a fantastic cost-controlled core that you’d expect a team to build around, not tear down. And that core, as a whole, has done relatively well this year. The problem is the players who they’ve surrounded them with.
Plus, not only would a total teardown not be prudent, it goes against everything this organization believes in. It would be very uncharacteristic for this ownership to sign off on another rebuild, angering an already frustrated fan base and sacrificing major ticket sales and revenue over the next five-plus years. They didn’t even go all-in on a rebuild a few years ago when it was necessary, and they’re not going to do it now.
The easiest way of turning this team around would be to just keep deGrom, and to actually dig into their pockets a little bit this offseason to surround him and the rest of the core players with a better supporting cast. The Mets really aren’t far away from being a good team. They just need to stop relying on cheap, injured veterans and build a better team around their already-established foundation.
So we can continue to talk about it and speculate all we want, but a trade of deGrom is not going to happen this year. It was worth it to consider the possibility, and it’s fun to banter about it, but the amount of discussion and attention deGrom’s market is getting is totally disproportionate to the actual likelihood of the Mets trading him. The market just isn’t right, it doesn’t make much sense for the team, and it would all but necessitate an absolute teardown that would be hard to see ownership agreeing to. Sorry folks, but it’s just not going to happen.