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).