Predicting what the Mets will do is often a hopeless exercise, as evidenced by Sunday’s trade for Marcus Stroman. New York is 11 1/2 games out of the lead in the NL East, and Mickey Callaway’s crew is six back of the second NL wild-card. The Mets’ playoff percentage currently sits at 14.2%, per Fangraphs. When most assumed a fire sale, the Mets doubled down.
Sunday’s Stroman trade signaled the Mets are still trying to compete in 2019, yet even that message has become muddled over the last week. New York is now shopping Noah Syndergaard, looking to deal a starter with one more year of team control than Stroman. Finding the Mets’ logic from move-to-move is maddening.
Stroman is in and Syndergaard is potentially on his way out, giving us just over 24 hours to find Thor’s next home after Citi Field. So where could Syndergaard be pitching following Wednesday’s trade deadline? Let's go through five prime landing spots, as well as a few under-the-radar options for the Mets to evaluate.
1. Houston Astros
Jeff Luhnow, the Astros' chief decision maker, transformed the American League pennant race in 2017 when he acquired Justin Verlander from the Tigers in August. The Verlander deal came with little risk, and the assets sacrificed for Syndergaard by Wednesday will certainly exceed the meager haul surrendered for Verlander. But with Houston cruising as potentially the favorites for the AL crown, don’t be shocked if Luhnow and Co. pull the trigger on another blockbuster. A literal arms race with the Yankees could be afoot as the Astros look to augment the top of their rotation that includes Verlander and Gerrit Cole.
Houston has remained disciplined thus far in holding onto top hitting prospect Kyle Tucker. He would likely swing a potential deal between Houston and New York unless Syndergaard’s value collapses. The Mets have eyed MLB-ready bats, and Tucker fits the description. Luhnow now has a difficult decision to make. Trading Tucker could send a potential All-Star to New York. Holding onto him could cost the Astros a spot in the World Series.
2. San Diego Padres
The flood of rumors regarding the Padres’ involvement in the Syndergaard trade talks makes sense. San Diego can receive an anchor atop its young staff, holding onto the Mets’ starter for at least two more seasons after 2019. The Padres paid Manny Machado $300 million during the offseason, so there isn’t much need for patience in San Diego. Fernando Tatis Jr. has injected an energy back into the franchise, and adding Syndergaard is a key step in getting the Padres back into the NL pennant chase.
New York would be smart to jump on a deal with San Diego. The Padres remain stocked with prospects even after a slate of call-ups, including an impressive collection of high-upside arms. The Mets foolishly dumped impressive prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn in their offseason trade with Seattle. Recouping young talent should be their goal moving forward, even after Sunday’s head-scratching Stroman trade.
3. Atlanta Braves
Dealing Syndergaard to Atlanta could prove painful for the Mets if the Braves cruise to a second straight NL East title. But once again, the Braves’ crop of assets can provide the Mets a solid prospect base following an offseason of ill-fated moves. Atlanta’s stable of pitching prospect is perhaps unmatched in baseball, though in terms of positional prospects, top outfielder Drew Waters is unlikely to be dealt by Atlanta, and Christian Pache is likely off-limits. Yet as the deadline approaches, it seems like the Braves could cobble the best package of any team regardless of position.
Atlanta is deep with potential playoff starters, though no immediate ace anchors the staff. Mike Soroka may make his first playoff start in 2019, while Dallas Keuchel and Julio Teheran don’t inspire much confidence. Syndergaard can toe the rubber in Atlanta or on the road in Game 1 of the NLDS, a key upgrade as the Braves approach October.
4. New York Yankees
If the Yankees played in Hartford, or Newport or even Newark, would they be atop the list of Syndergaard destinations? Probably. The scenario illustrates the Mets’ absurd stubbornness against dealing anyone, let alone Syndergaard, to their crosstown rival, regardless of the package they'd get in return from Brian Cashman and the brass in the Bronx. The Yankees and Mets aren’t even in the same league, let alone the same division. Do the folks in Flushing know back-page headlines don’t translate to wins and losses? The Yankees appear to have pieces the Mets covet, namely MLB-ready prospects. Both Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier would be an impressive complements to Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil in the Mets' lineup. Value is value, regardless of which team it comes from. The Mets’ ego is getting the best of them at the moment.
5. The Dark Horses
Boston Red Sox
Syndergaard would provide a jolt of youth to an aging staff at Fenway Park. Three of Boston’s top four innings producers are over 30, and Thor can sit atop the staff as the Red Sox transition to a new era. Expect Boston to focus on the reliever market for now, and an Edwin Diaz deal is certainly in play by Wednesday afternoon. Syndergaard could be an intriguing alternate plan.
Perhaps last year’s AL wild-card scarred Billy Beane as Oakland’s crop of relievers was shelled by Aaron Judge and Co. in Yankee Stadium. The A’s are unlikely to catch Houston for the AL West title, and a potential postseason ace in Syndergaard is far preferable than the rest of Oakland’s potential wild-card starting options. Oakland’s electric bullpen could swing a postseason series, but winning a one-game playoff comes first.
Syndergaard could serve as a play-in ace for the Brewers just as much as he could for Oakland, and Milwaukee appeared one pitcher short throughout last year’s NLCS matchup with the Dodgers. Christian Yelich is the best player in the National League, and Josh Hader may be the best reliever in all of baseball. One impact starter can round out a truly championship-caliber core.
It’s hard to imagine Minnesota sitting out the pitching market as it eyes the franchise’s first AL Central title since 2010. Top prospects Alex Kirilloff and Royce Lewis are unlikely to wedge their way into the trade talks, and the Twins could very well aim lower on the trade market for pitching help. Mike Minor or Lance Lynn may make more sense, though the Syndergaard option looms as we approach July 31.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays made a significant financial commitment during this offseason, paying Charlie Morton $30 million over two years and extending Blake Snell with a five-year, $50 million deal. Perhaps they’re ready to spring for Syndergaard and pay him through his two upcoming arbitration years. The Yankees and Red Sox remain powerhouses, and the Rays are simply too good to strip down their roster. Stockpiling arms may be their best route to contention.