Noah Syndergaard, if you’re still reading about the Mets at this point, is a hot topic of trade rumors these days. These seem to be real rumors too, and not the clickbait ones SNY was peddling in Spring Training. While turning pitchers into prospects if you can get excess value is usually a good bet given the fragile nature of pitchers, particularly hard throwing ones that haven’t had Tommy John surgery, I think the better play is to extend him, not trade him.
The Mets control Syndergaard for two more years after this one. He has a career 3.21 ERA and accumulated 17.1 fWAR so far. Speaking of WAR, it’s at 2.7 this season. That’s 21st in baseball. (Jacob deGrom is 7th and Zack Wheeler is 25th) The ERAs aren’t as sparkling as last year, but at least with Syndergaard, a lot of that can be chalked up to two things. The juiced ball, and defense.
Syndergaard’s HR rate has spiked, as has literally everyone’s with the way the ball is these days. He’s on record saying he’s struggled to get the same grip on it as he has in previous years. It’s something he knows to work on, and sometimes does seem to have better success, and it’s also something that might be corrected if there’s any correction to the ball in 2020. It’d be foolish to plan on that correcting, but Thor’s still providing a lot of value despite it, and a correction can only help pitchers. You’d also hate to pull a Daniel Murphy, and trade him only to have the ball change in his favor afterwards.
The other thing that’s hurt Syndergaard is LOB%, the percentage of baserunners he strands. This is a stat that’s mostly out of the pitcher’s control, though obviously higher strikeout pitchers will tend to strand more runners. Syndergaard is 31st of qualified pitchers with a 23.8 K%, which is above the starting pitcher league average 22.3. Thor has the 10th worst LOB% of qualified pitchers at 68.1%, and Zack Wheeler is 5th worse. League average is 72%. Defense can kill this, allowing a lower percentage of balls in play to become outs.
So Noah Syndergaard is a really good pitcher still, and could be even better. He’s under team control. This is only his age 26 season. That’s the kind of guy you want on your team. I don’t know what Thor would be looking for in a contract extension. He’s previously shown to be very cognizant of how underpaid MLB players are pre-free agency, so perhaps he’s not willing to give away any of that. Still, if you can pay him more for 2020 and 2021 to buy 2022 and possible more, it’d be hard to believe a trade package could be worth more than Syndergaard himself, barring a spring 2020 Tommy John surgery that cancels is 2020 and 2021 season, but that could just as easily happen to the pitcher the Mets would have to acquire to replace him.
The Mets should absolutely listen to offers on any player they have that can garner something big in return, and measure the odds of that making the team better both in 2020 and beyond, but it’s hard to see the Mets getting a return that has a high-probability of out-performing Noah Syndergaard himself. Keep him, extend him and enjoy him.