2019 Trade Deadline Targets: RHP Noah Syndergaard, Mets

Next up in the Trade Deadline Targets series might be the most intriguing player available ahead of Wednesday’s deadline. Of course I’m talking about Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard.

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Previous entries

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This wasn’t part of the plan. The Mets were supposed to contend in 2019. They signed Jacob deGrom to a contract extension, acquired one of the premiere closers in baseball in Edwin Diaz and had a solid-looking rotation after deGrom that included Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. That and the fact they might have the National League Rookie of the Year in Pete Alonso and this team should be competing for the best record in the NL.

Yet, they’re sitting at 47-55 and looking to make moves. Ken Rosenthal reported they’re looking to trade Syndergaard and sign Wheeler to a contract extension. There’s even an outside shot they try to recoup some prospect capital expended to get Diaz (Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn) by moving him as well. This post will focus mostly on Syndergaard, but Diaz could also be an option for the Dodgers should the Mets get serious about moving him.

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You know the backstory by now: Syndergaard, 26, was acquired from the Blue Jays after R.A. Dickey stole Clayton Kershaw‘s Cy Young Award in 2012. That definitely wasn’t Alex Anthopolous’ finest moments as a general manager. Since joining the Mets, Syndergaard has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. He also comes with injury concerns that have limited him to no more than 183 2/3 innings in any one season of his MLB career. But he has unmatched arm talent and stuff, and he’s the type of pitcher you consider trading significant prospects to acquire.

Syndergaard is in the midst of his worst season as a pro. Here are the following statistics in which he’s running career worsts:

  • 4.33 ERA
  • 3.64 FIP
  • 4.03 xFIP
  • 23.8 K%
  • 6.8 BB%
  • 31.6 O-Swing%
  • .254 BAA 

The numbers aren’t that bad as a whole, but he certainly hasn’t been pitching at the level to which we’re accustomed. Still, he has an incredible amount of talent and is the type of pitcher who could carry a pitching staff and team come October.

Everyone knows about his legendary fastball. It’s averaging 97.7 MPH — the highest among qualified starting pitchers. However, it hasn’t been as effective this season. FanGraphs has it as a -3.4 runs above average pitch. It actually hasn’t been a terribly effective pitch for him since 2016, but he has an arsenal of other pitches on which to rely. His changeup ranks among the best in baseball at 9.1 runs above average, while his curveball is at 2.9. His slider has backed up this season — even more than his fastball. It’s at -1.5, but it’s the pitch heatmaps that tell a better story.

Syndergaard’s slider, 2015-18
Syndergaard’s slider, 2019

As you can see, his slider is landing higher in the strike zone compared to what he did from 2015-18. It has contributed to his overall launch angle rising more than 3 degrees from last season. But the most damning stat is the fact his slider has a .212 ISO against this season. In his first four seasons, it was .046. The average ISO allowed on sliders this season is .163, while it was .139 from ’15-’18. The Dodgers are no strangers to bringing in pitchers and fixing those who have sliders with either mechanical adjustments or by simply suggesting the pitcher should throw it more. Just thinking about what Rick Honeycutt and Co., could do with Syndergaard is enough to make one salivate.

Cost

This one is going to hurt. Syndergaard is under team control through the 2021 season. He’ll be arbitration-eligible for a second time this winter and could be looking at a payday between $8.5-$11.5 million. That’s peanuts for a guy of his caliber, but that just increases his trade value even more. He’s only due the remainder of his $6 million salary for this season, so the acquiring team won’t be adding much to its current payroll. With Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill free agents after the season, adding a controllable, elite-level starting pitcher might not be the worst idea, especially since it would — by default — strengthen the bullpen by sending Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling there and keeping Julio Urias there for the rest of the season.

This report from a Marc Carig of The Athletic — citing a rival executive — makes it seem like the cost won’t be that substantial, but I’d be willing to guess this is light.

Then again, this is the Mets we’re talking about, so who the hell knows.

I’m going to propose two packages for Syndergaard and the third will be with Syndergaard and Diaz, which is going to be a lot. All of these will require at least two of the Dodgers’ top 4-5 prospects.

Package 1

To NYM: Gavin Lux, Josiah Gray, Mitchell White
To LA: Syndergaard

I’m not really into this one because it involves Lux, but it isn’t an unrealistic ask on the Mets’ part. Gray and White would give them two mid-rotation pitching prospects — one of which is close to the majors — but the real prize would be Lux, who is a potential star at shortstop.

Package 2

To NYM: Keibert Ruiz, Dustin May, Dennis Santana
To LA: Syndergaard

This one seems to make more sense, but still stings. Ruiz is easily their catcher of the future. May gives them a high-ceiling pitching prospect in return for their current high-ceiling pitcher. Santana gives them a guy they could bring up tomorrow to fill a void in either the rotation or bullpen.

Package 3

To NYM: Ruiz, May, Jeter Downs, DJ Peters, Michael Grove
To LA: Syndergaard, Diaz

This one is a bit more complicated. It involves two of the top 5 prospects, a couple of higher-ceiling position players in Downs and Peters and a pitching prospect with upside in Grove who’s still working his way back from Tommy John surgery. His numbers don’t look great, but he’s missing a ton of bats. Diaz’s addition would definitely improve the bullpen (and he’s under team control for three more seasons), but I’m not sure the Mets are really looking to move him just yet. If they are, they might move him in another deal to maximize their return.

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Look, if the Dodgers want Syndergaard, they’re going to have to pay. While I wouldn’t be terribly thrilled to see the Dodgers move the likes of Ruiz and May (I don’t think Lux is on the table; I just included him for fun), if it means getting a pitcher like Syndergaard in return, it might be something worth exploring.

Just think of this October rotation:

  1. Ryu
  2. Buehler
  3. Kershaw
  4. Syndergaard

That potential collection of front-line starters could very well might make it easier to give up the likes of Ruiz and May.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.