The Mets are in the midst of yet another losing season, which means it is time for the annual “will they or won’t they” trading deadline discussions. This time last year, rumors were swirling around both Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler, and if anything, the rumors regarding both pitchers are even more intense this year.
But with every new bit of information that leaks out as the deadline looms closer, the picture is increasingly troubling. The Syndergaard rumors especially have kicked up a notch in the past 24 hours, with Buster Olney reporting that a rival evaluator said: “It’s beyond listening. They want to move [Syndergaard].” But Joel Sherman has reported that ownership are the biggest holdouts and will need convincing. There is one portion of his column that particularly sticks out.
Also, there are concerns about being embarrassed talented players such as Diaz and Syndergaard, who have underperformed this year for the Mets, will be unlocked and flourish elsewhere. There is a particular worry about sending either to a more analytically advanced organization such as the Astros — and you could just imagine the pain if either were thriving for the Braves or Yankees.
The sheer insanity of the bold-faced admission that other teams are smarter than them aside, instead of taking this as a sign that they may be selling low on their fireballing righty, the Mets have decided that they would just rather not listen to offers from those teams that may embarrass them in the headlines later. Regarding the Yankees in particular, the Wilpons have always had an inferiority complex.
“We’d be crazy to put ourselves in the position of having them win with one of our guys,’’ a member of the Mets front office told Yahoo Sports for a story this week. “The Yankees would have to offer more than any other team for us to deal with them.”
Meanwhile, a member of the Yankees’ front office said, “It’s their issue. It’s not our issue.’’ While the crosstown “rivalry” has felt more intense in some years than others, it has always been pretty much a one-way street.
As rumors regarding Syndergaard’s potential departure from Queens have intensified, reports have surfaced that the Mets may consider extending Zack Wheeler if Syndergaard is moved in order to avoid a scenario where the only locked in members of the 2020 rotation are Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz. A recent figure Ken Rosenthal floated in his latest trade rumor roundup was “a four-year deal in the $70 million to $80 million range.” While this is not cheap, it is almost certainly less than what Syndergaard would request for an extension.
To me, a few things are clear from these various nuggets of information, and they all reek of ownership’s fingerprints on this process—something that, of course, isn’t new. The Mets would rather extend Wheeler than Syndergaard because Wheeler’s price tag is likely lower. The Mets also don’t view Syndergaard as a long-term part of the organization’s future in part because he is not a good company man the way that Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler are.
Remember what he had to say about the Syracuse trip right before the start of the season? It’s probably a safe guess those comments didn’t go over well with Fred and Jeff Wilpon, along with other times he has been more outspoken than other players. But ownership is also wary of what the back pages will say if Syndergaard has success elsewhere on a more “analytical” team, especially—heaven forbid—the Yankees. Similarly, I worry that this is also all driven in part by last-ditch efforts to save face for what has become an unpopular trade by pointing to half-hearted attempts to restock the farm system via selling low on Syndergaard.
In other words, as usual, the Mets have no real plan or cohesive organizational vision, as Lukas Vlahos discussed earlier this month in the context of trading Syndergaard. Instead of either standing pat, only considering trade offers for expiring contracts, and investing in the future by offering extensions to both Wheeler and Syndergaard, or trading Syndergaard but also then fielding offers for the likes of Michael Conforto, as well, the Mets have again decided to take an odd middle road of “retooling” rather than rebuilding or really going for it. Rather than solve their problems by building an analytically-minded front office that rivals the most cutting edge front offices in baseball or spending the money to build a perennial contender or both of these things, the Mets are compromising the return for their greatest trade asset because they are prideful and stubborn.