Jacob deGrom – building block or valuable trade chip?

There’s been a lot of speculation from baseball writers and wishful thinking from Yankee fans that the Mets will make ace Jacob deGrom available in trade next month. Based on the packages of top rated prospects received for other controllable ace pitchers like Chris Sale and Gerrit Cole in recent years, it’s a tempting proposition, as the Mets could kickstart a rebuild with emerging young talent. However, this writer agrees with pitching coach Dave Eiland‘s assessment that trading deGrom would be asinine.

deGrom is pitching the best baseball of his life. If not for lousy run support and blown saves he’d be atop the Cy Young award race. He just turned 30, is still under arbitration control for two more seasons, is a very well liked player and always comes through in the big game. It would be near impossible to get value for him and as Eiland pointed out, “these guys don’t grow on trees.” Noah Syndergaard, while currently nursing a bizarre finger injury, is one of the most intimidating and powerful pitchers in baseball. He needs to learn to vary his location more to be optimally effective, but he’s the real deal with the makings of a long term ace. At just 25 and with three arbitration years remaining, there is virtually no way to get fair value for Syndergaard. Like deGrom, he is a building block, not a trade chip.

The 2018 Mets are not likely to make the playoffs and clearly this team will need to be reconfigured between now and 2019, however a complete rebuild is not warranted when you have two young, controllable ace pitchers atop your rotation. Seeing the successful tear-down/rebuilds done by the Astros and Cubs makes it tempting, but look at the Cincinnati Reds, who were a contending team a few years ago. Unable to keep up with their payroll, they unloaded all their best pitchers, as well as a few veteran hitters, for prospects. Several years later they are stuck in the basement with a lopsided team featuring a lot of good bats but almost no quality arms. The White Sox completely cleared the decks, unloading most of their veteran hitters as well as their top pitchers. They have some exciting prospects, but they won’t be relevant again for years.

The smart move, both for building the Mets for the future and confidence in the fan base, is to lock up deGrom and Noah Syndergaard to long term deals. Buy out their remaining arbitration years and extend them with contract offers in the range of five years/$100. It may take more, but it’s a starting point in negotiation. This would give the franchise two clear building blocks as they move forward and it would signal to the team and fans that no major tear down is coming. We may not have a top tier payroll but we’re not a secondary market team like the Oakland A’s or Tampay Bay Rays, who are known for unloading star players while still under arbitration control. Major market teams don’t operate this way.

Instead, smart trades should be made, not just to save money like last year, but with a real eye toward 2019 and beyond. Next offseason we’ll need to rebuild the bullpen and add a big bat to the lineup, but the rotation, the top of the order, outfield and half the infield will be in place. Come July, Sandy Alderson should listen to offers on virtually every other player on the roster (except maybe Brandon Nimmo). Anyone not likely to be back next year – Asdrubal Cabrera, Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins – should be agressively marketed and veteran players on short term deals or nearing free agency- Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak, Zack Wheeler – should be selectively made available as well. For the right deal, no one should be off the table, except our two ace pitchers (and Nimmo).

22 comments for “Jacob deGrom – building block or valuable trade chip?

  1. Mike Walczak
    June 22, 2018 at 9:38 am

    I have done a lot of soul searching and deep thought about this team. Although it is tempting to say do a total rebuild, I agree 100% with your assessment. Rarely you have two pitchers with their caliber at the top of your rotation.

    I would be happy if they jettisoned the expiring contracts and got rid of Reyes and Bautista. They are not part of the future, so best to cut them now and let’s see what the youngsters can do. Cecchini over Reyes or Bautista. I do think that Reyes will be released shortly.

    They can’t continue to sign free agents like Vargas and Gonzalez. They have to revamp their free agency philosophy and sign good players.

    I also think it is time to really think about the bottom half of the rotation.

    So lets jettison the junk and suck it up for the rest of the year.

  2. June 22, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Definitely a building block I think he ages like Scherzer has for sure. Jake has a high pitching iq and let’s remember he was a three win pitcher in 2016 even with diminished stuff due to injuries.

  3. June 22, 2018 at 10:23 am

    And why did management go out of its way to sign 30+ year old players to multi year contracts? Alderson totally misread this off season. The team is stuck with Bruce for 2 more years at 14 per and Frazier for another injury awaiting season. Need to start cutting ties with players who are unable to stay healthy for a full season (d’Naurd). Cespedes needs to play 150 games if this team has any chance at a playoff spot. Especially at 29 million next season. Keep your 2 aces. Easier to find hitting than a good pitcher (Vargas)

  4. TexasGusCC
    June 22, 2018 at 10:46 am

    Building block: In their twenties.
    Trading chip: In their thirties.

    Branch Rickey: Better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late.

    However, if the package doesn’t weigh enough, you hold.

  5. TJ
    June 22, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Any legit GM would test the marketplace to assess value on each, but barring a clear overpay DeGrom and Syndergaard are building blocks.

  6. MattyMets
    June 22, 2018 at 11:39 am

    Wow, nice to check back and see that most agree with me. Usually I get slaughtered when I write pieces like this. Although, Brian and BK haven’t chimed in yet, so there’s still time.

  7. Eraff
    June 22, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    deGrom is a building block only if they are going to spend big money building around him….and disregarding some dead end dollars they’ve committed.

    I wish that would be a possible outcome.

    Trading deGrom or any of their assets is both a financial and a talent evaluation process—- am I impressed by their Baseball Brains???—certainly not!

    This is darkness before dawn…and I think it’s gonna be a long night.

  8. Pete In Iowa
    June 22, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    All of what you have stated about deGrom is 100% correct Matt and I would add that I love the guy just as much as any other Mets fan. However….
    Even though he was huge in the 2015 post-season, how many championships have we won with him? Does anyone realistically see this team (no matter what moves they make) truly competing for a title before 2021, 2020 at best? Jake would be 32 or 33 by then. The odds are certainly against him being the pitcher he is right now in his age 32 or 33 seasons.
    No way in the world I would trade him only for prospects. However, if a package can be found with a pair of solid, young proven position players and a pair of top-shelf prospects, I would make that move. It would have to address some of the many holes we currently (and will) have in the starting lineup (such as 3B, 2B, C, 1B and CF — thinking Nimmo and Conforto in the corners) and provide some organizational depth as well. For sure, a steep, steep price, but in my mind, this is what it would take to move him.
    This type of deal may be out there, as deGrom will never be worth more than he is right now.

    • AJV
      June 22, 2018 at 8:01 pm

      We don’t have holes in the many places if you mean prospects to be able to step into them I’m guessing. Over the next two years we have two top 100 guys who should step in at 2B and 1B. Putting fairly inexperienced players at RF / CF / 1B / 2B / SS……. all top prospects from our own system. People keep ranting about trading for prospects, we have guys slated for these spots and moving forward productively. You could argue that putting veterans in CF, 3B, and C wouldn’t be a bad move, you need a balance.

  9. Steve S.
    June 22, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Go with the “building blocks” and also keep Matz, Wheeler, and Lugo in the one of the best rotations in baseball.

    Try McNeil at 2B now to see what he’s got. Also try out Smith and Alonso at 1B. I’m OK with Frazier for one more year though.

    Gsellman replaces Familia, after he’s dealt. And then really beef up the bullpen, unlike last winter! I’d keep Swarzak. Above all, though, spend big money to build a powerhouse pen!

    Keep Nimmo, but also Conforto.

    Also Mesoraco and d’Arnaud can man the catching position next year.

    At this point, keep Bruce and hope he comes around, when healthy. Pray that Cespedes will also be OK. And Lagares is a good fourth OFer.

  10. June 22, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Keep Bruce? Really? Who’s going to take that albatross contract? No choice here. The Mets are stuck with him for 2 more years ( 28 million owed ). So whereever you decide to play Bruce someone has to sit. Lets see if Matz can stay healthy for one full season before we decide to crown him as part of the best rotations in baseball. Ditto with Lugo as we wait and see how this season he progresses. Lagares is a good 4th when he’s healthy same Cespedes. it’s just that one has to start to wonder if either will ever play a full season.

    • Steve S.
      June 22, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      Sounds like you’re mainly agreeing with me. Of course, we have to keep Bruce and “hope.” He could at least be a very expensive backup OFer/1Bman. And we probably can’t trade Matz and get value back for him now. We could trade Wheeler and/or Lugo, but I wouldn’t.

      Lagares had a freak injury.

      By all means, deal Cabrera, Familia, Plawecki, and Blevins. And dump Reyes.

  11. June 22, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    Pretty much so Steve. But 14 million to play back up? Fred would fire Sandy for that one.

    • Steve S.
      June 22, 2018 at 2:18 pm

      True, but that’s the worst case scenario. Maybe he’ll come around again. And maybe Ces won’t ever be completely healthy, so Bruce will be needed.

  12. Madman
    June 22, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    Bruce and Ces,what about them? Big contracts but both look like they’re breaking down. Those contracts limit FA acquisitions and the fact that they’ve contributed so little does make one wonder about wisdom of FA signings

  13. Chris F
    June 22, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Matt,

    Fans fall in love with the names on the back of jerseys, even while there is passion for the name on the front. I like both Jake and Noah a lot. But this is a business, and so a number of things need to be known in advance of even tempting this.

    1. What is the goal of ownership? I hate it as much as anyone, but the final plan lurks in the deep recesses of Freddy and Jeff. I think actions say plenty (they dont care about winning a WS as the #1 priority, else Reyes would be night manager at a Dairy Queen right now).

    2. What can the FO influence owners to do? This really determines outcome. Alderson has sold the Wilpons on another Ponzi scheme, and they fell hook line and sinker once more. Whatever plan we were told as fans has been absolutely completely moribund. I loved 2015 as much as anyone, but it was fully anomalous…we played well, and a host of other things fell into place that were necessary. Maybe like any no-hitter that has to happen, but this team was not constructed like the Astros, Cubs, Yankees, Dodgers…and Braves (there, I said it), and so the slide to irrelevant was swift and complete.

    3. Is your personal sense of addressing this question one where winning a championship prevails over all?

    4. Is your personal sense of addressing this issue one where being hopefully good enough for a WC spot is your gateway?

    5. “Instead, smart trades should be made, not just to save money like last year, but with a real eye toward 2019 and beyond. Next offseason we’ll need to rebuild the bullpen and add a big bat to the lineup, but the rotation, the top of the order, outfield and half the infield will be in place.”

    This is not a plan that identifies enough for me.

    How much money will be allocated to your plan? Id be curious about more details. You’ve saddled the Wilpons with a ton of money buying out arb years for 20M$. That seems reckless to me. How, Who, and How much to do allocate to rebuilding a pen? So you trust the present FO to make savvy trades and FA acquisitions?

    6. It is utterly crazy to think the totality of “everyone but Noah, Jake, Nimmo” get you anything but a bucket of balls. Look at last year. Its no different. It makes no sense at all to have a crack pitching duo, only to be done in by no pen and a totally uncertain offense that cannot play defense. This team is in disequilibrium…and its impossible to be taken as a serious post season threat under the hope that pitching is enough and magic will happen otherwise. There is not enough talent on this team or in the pipeline to be a difference maker. If the goal is to play near .500 baseball and expect 25k people in the stadium day after day under a dream of WC hope, then keep these guys and fill in with the irrelevant folks and roll the dice (this is the present mode of the team). I think it cant and wont ever amount to anything.

    7. I want a World Series parade. Well, if you accept the team has a valuable pieces that could get absolute blue chip prospects near the bigs (Gleyber Torres, Kris Bryant type) and plan ahead for the next 6 years, it has to be done.

    Id be all for this except for items (1) and (2) above. I dont trust the Wilpons or the GM skills of Alderson and his staff. Alderson has an outdated, quite frankly juvenile, view of the game. He is neither dynamic nor flexible in constricting a team. he is locked in a PED era plan for failure, and incompetent at trades or FA acquisition or drafting. After his tenure as GM, this team is more barren than when he took over. I cant trust this group to do a re-build. This disaster is his construction and he cannot be allowed to squander top tier talent for another rebuild.

    Where does that leave me? I go back up to Name’s comment: if one is overwhelmed with an offer for Noah or Jake that even idiots like fans can see is a slam dunk, then do it. Otherwise, stand pat, hope the Wilpons run Alderson and his gang of fools out of town, get a new FO, and then try again. Overall this team is in a significantly deficient state of affairs.

    • Chris F
      June 22, 2018 at 6:08 pm

      Im sorry, the credit for this:

      “Building block: In their twenties.
      Trading chip: In their thirties.

      Branch Rickey: Better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late.

      However, if the package doesn’t weigh enough, you hold.”

      goes to Gus, not Name. Apologies Gus. I mostly agree.

  14. Chris F
    June 22, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    were are the Mets? Lets let Alderson himself speak in the backwards wind talker double speak we so often hear from him:

    “There are a few teams that are going to be buyers, there are a few teams that are already sellers and there’s a bunch of teams in the middle. I would put us in the middle.”

    The gorgeous taupe-colored middle of purgatory, neither in this world nor that. Just part of the invisible nothingness of nothing. How Ive come to loathe Alderson and his architecture of failure.

  15. June 23, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    re: Steve S comment “Go with the “building blocks” and also keep Matz, Wheeler, and Lugo in the one of the best rotations in baseball.

    Ok…this is mostly Fantasy—we are at the end of a 5 year dream about a Big 5, and the rest of the supposed Golden Horizon of the Young Starters. They’re not so young anymore—and they’re not anywhere near demonstrating an ability to be a Rotation that would be a Core Strength of a Good team.

    There remains a possibility that Lugo and Wheeler and Matz would begin to demonstrate that they can offer quality in 2019 and beyond—if they do that, it may make sense to keep them together and address the rest.

    Here’s the thing…I don’t think there’s enough time (2-3 turns) to feel they’ve suddenly established a strength, given the last 2-4 years of performance.

    How much are they willing to spend to put a team around a guy like deGrom?????……. that dictates the next steps.

    • Steve S.
      June 23, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      They are now 30, 28, 28, 27, and 25. They’re pretty healthy now. There’s time if we get a very good bullpen to hold leads next year. Should have happened this year! And now more Gonzos and Reyeses.

      • Steve S.
        June 23, 2018 at 3:57 pm

        “No more” (Couldn’t edit.)

  16. June 25, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    A friend on Twitter opined:

    “The Mets must either trade deGrom or sign Machado/[Harper — I added his name].

    They can’t do both.

    Sadly, they will do neither.”

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