The Mets went to the All-Star break tied with the Miami Marlins for last place.
That isn’t just a fluke or a bit of bad fortune. That’s more than half a season playing even with a team focused on 2020.
Despite the results, many are suggesting the Mets need to hold their four very good starting pitchers. “I would keep all four,” proclaimed one rival executive of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler.
The temptation to do so is understandable. But that is just a repeat of Mets history: Underperform expectations, assume it’s down to bad luck, and bring back the same bad team. As they say, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
There are stories being written about how they can’t trade ace deGrom, one of the top-five pitchers in the game, or Noah Syndergaard, nearly as good. We get that, especially in deGrom’s case. It’s every Mets fan's nightmare to relive the Tom Seaver trade, where they dealt the franchise icon for four relative bit part players.
But we’ve seen stories on how they can’t trade Wheeler, which is patently absurd. Wheeler has talent, and he’s pitching well now. He may even have found something. Even in this year, where folks are raving about him, he has a 4.44 ERA and 85 OPS-plus. He’s better than that, and quite possibly a No. 3 starter. But to think he’s untouchable makes no sense.
The Mets need to take a page from their rival Phillies and be bold. They need to do something drastic.
They need to build, or maybe even rebuild. They had one monster slugger in the Futures Game in Peter Alonso, but people who have seen their system say they have little else.
They need to do something different.
We get the deGrom thing. He is a true star, and no one wants to relive nightmares. But they can’t come back to spring training in 2019 with the same team and the same story.
Here’s what we would do: trade Syndergaard (assuming he proves healthy his next two starts) and Wheeler. Keep deGrom, and also keep the lefty Matz, who truly seems to have found something.
Wheeler’s the easy one. The Mets would be selling high in a market bereft of great starters (other than the ones the Mets hold! Don’t tell anyone Syndergaard could really go until after Wheeler is gone) and should easily get someone to overpay for Wheeler.
Syndergaard would be painful. He’s an amazing talent with a personality (though we still aren’t convinced that incredible Twitter account is really written by him; if it is, he needs to do more interviews). But Syndergaard could bring back a haul for those very reasons. He also has three years to go before free agency, which is huge – he’s under control for eight times longer than Manny Machado, who brought quite a bit. It’s understood he can’t rival Machado in terms of achievement, but pitching is at such a premium, they could get back three – maybe four – great pieces.
Syndergaard is terrific, but there’s a reliability factor at play. Perhaps he’s just been unlucky the last two years, but this could be a trend.
And one more thing: Don’t be afraid to trade with the Yankees.
They are the obvious trade partner, as a team with an extremely deep farm system. Still, we believe there’s almost no chance the Mets would even consider this.
The second-best team to partner with on a trade is the Braves (in terms of prospects), which would be worse since that would force the Mets to face Syndergaard a lot over the next three-plus seasons (assuming he stays healthy). The Braves also have a deep farm system – perhaps as deep as that of the Yankees.
The Mets may not love these options. But the option of returning the same team should be untenable and out of the question.