Last week, the New York Daily News ran a cover depicting Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in Yankees uniforms. The cover story, penned by John Harper, speculated whether or not it would make sense for the Mets to trade their aces to the Yankees in order to tap into the Yanks’ rich prospect pool. Harper essentially argued that the Mets, with a struggling MLB roster and a barren farm system, would be best to sell high on deGrom and Syndergaard, in order to replenish their farm system and aim for another rebuild.
While the cover was patently sensationalist — deGrom and Syndergaard aren’t going anywhere, and especially not to the Yankees — Harper’s case may not be completely off-base. The Mets clearly have little interest in giving deGrom or Syndergaard much to work with, as evidenced by their frugal offseason and habitually-low annual payrolls. After losing 92 games last season, the Mets entered 2018 with a payroll only $2.3 million higher than in 2017. And shockingly enough, the Mets find themselves struggling again. Who could have seen that coming?
If they’re going to continue down this course, the Mets might as well trade deGrom and Syndergaard. There’s no sense in wasting their talent on mediocre Mets teams that are going to miss the playoffs year in and year out.
The fact that we’re even having a conversation about trading deGrom and Syndergaard is proof positive that the Mets are failing them. deGrom is under team control through 2020, and Syndergaard until 2021. To have two pitchers that talented under team control for that long a period is a rare opportunity for any team. You’d expect this to be the Mets’ window of contention, and any functioning franchise would be going for broke trying to capitalize on this window.
But, of course, the Mets aren’t a functioning franchise. So instead, we get third-rate signings like Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Reyes while division rivals go for guys like Jake Arrieta and Max Scherzer. Somebody should remind the Mets that they play in New York, and not in Seattle or Baltimore — who both have higher effective payrolls than the Mets, by the way. It’s almost like the Mets don’t realize the opportunity they have.
And it doesn’t look like things are going to be looking up in this department anytime soon. The Mets’ effective payroll, when excluding the money reportedly covered by the insurance on David Wright‘s contract, is 15th in all of baseball. This rank is roughly consistent with where the Mets have been since about 2012 — and likely will remain the status quo as long as the Wilpons are around. And when this inability (or unwillingness) to spend is coupled with a lack of top-tier prospects to use as trade bait, the Mets’ avenues for talent look pretty limited.
None of this is to say that the Mets should trade deGrom or Syndergaard. What the Mets should do is supplement their aces with proper run support and a solid bullpen, so that 2-1 losses and blown eighth-inning leads aren’t a common commodity. Because two aces can take you a long way in the playoffs — just ask the 2001 Diamondbacks.
Even sneaking in as a second Wild Card could mean another pennant for the Mets, so long as deGrom and Syndergaard are around. As bad as things have been for them over the last two seasons, it’s crazy to think that they’re still only a move or two away from becoming contenders again, all thanks to deGrom and Syndergaard.
And that’s what’s most frustrating about this whole ordeal. The Mets are just a few steps away from contention, and are simply opting out of taking those steps. Hopefully things will change, and the Mets will have a 2001 Diamondbacks-esque run to the World Series — with a real lineup and another capable starting pitcher. But don’t hold your breath. If the Mets are just going to keep running a second-rate operation, do deGrom and Syndergaard a favor and just trade them to a team that actually cares to invest in them.