Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen is remaining aggressive at the MLB Winter Meetings, even if it means trading Noah Syndergaard and/or making a deal with the Yankees.
LAS VEGAS — If the Mets wind up trading for two years of control of Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, it will not be at the cost of three years of pitcher Noah Syndergaard. New York GM Brodie Van Wagenen is bold, but he’s also smart, and that simple version of three-way trade rumors between the Mets, Marlins and Yankees is inequitable, and thus, according to one baseball source, was not one of many versions of deals Van Wagenen considered.
Here’s the important takeaway: Van Wagenen continues to be the most aggressive GM at the winter meetings. Fresh into his first months on the job he has traded for a player under contract through age 40 (Robinson Canó), tried to engineer three-way deals, and engaged in blockbluster trade talks with the rival Yankees, a team no Mets GM has dared deal with in the past 14 years when it comes to swapping big league players.
Van Wagenen has engaged in multiple versions of trade talks involving Syndergaard. It’s not that the Mets are down on Syndergaard; it’s that they believe his trade value is so high and they want to explore all avenues of improving the team to build a playoff team in 2019.
If, for instance, Van Wagenen can wind up with two years of Realmuto and five years of Miguel Andujar, then you think hard about making the trade with Syndergaard in it and probably one of your young core players, such as three years of Michael Conforto. You then spend money on free-agent pitching. Another option is to keep Syndergaard and spend your free-agent pitching budget on catcher Yasmani Grandal.
The point is not that Van Wagenen wants to trade Syndergaard, but that as a new, “out of the box” GM hire, he is pursuing “out of the box” options aggressively. The Mets are riding his energy, as well as the synergy between Van Wagenen and COO Jeff Wilpon, who is loving the rave reviews coming the Mets’ way in New York.
“He’s pulled Jeff out of his comfort zone,” said one baseball source. “He’s brought Jeff into their press conferences, he’s brought Jeff to the winter meetings … there’s a real honeymoon period going on.”
Van Wagenen’s energy is admirable, but he has to be especially careful trading Syndergaard. At age 26, with 87 games of major league experience and five putaway pitches, Syndergaard is entering his prime. Here’s how Syndergaard compares to Jacob deGrom and Stephen Strasburg through 87 career games:
That’s an elite pitcher on the rise. Syndergaard ranks ninth all time in most strikeouts through a player’s first 87 games. Here’s what is even more impressive: of the top 20 strikeout pitchers through 87 games, Syndergaard has the fewest walks. He’s a power pitcher who throws strikes and limits home runs.
If you want to quibble, he is poor at defending the running game, and injuries limited him to 32 starts combined the past two years.
There are few pitchers in the game with the tools of Syndergaard, with his high-90s sinker, low-90s slider, 100-mph four-seamer, 90-mph changeup and improving curveball. Trading what should be his three best years—especially if he winds up with the Yankees—is about as out of the box as it gets.