The New York Mets, six games back in the Wild Card race, made a move signaling that they haven’t given up on the postseason just yet. Marcus Stroman, who had a 2.96 ERA in 19 starts with the Toronto Blue Jays, was one of the best starting pitchers on the market, and that cost the Mets their top pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson.
The deal also means that Noah Syndergaard is staying put in Queens – the original plan was to trade Thor, and with the return to try and get Stroman. But now that the Mets got Stroman without giving up any kind of major league talent there’s no point in giving Syndergaard away.
Whether you think this deal has more implications on this or next season, the Mets surely weren’t going into a rebuild. Not with this team.
The Mets got Stroman for a very fair, even cheap price. For a pitcher who has had the 12th-best ERA in MLB, the Mets only gave up two, who are years away from the big leagues, pitching prospects. There’s no guarantee that they are going to be in any kind of playoff contention at the time they’re called up, or that the Mets will have the roster they have now.
The 2019 New York Mets haven’t been the typical bad team. Being five games under .500, they have the most saves blown in the league (19) while simultaneously having recorded the 14th-most saves in the league (26). They’ve faced a save opportunity in 47 games (45%) and have the 10th-best starters ERA.
The Mets have let games slip through their fingers at an unbelievable pace this year, but when they’re on a streak, they’re as good as any team in the big leagues. As they are now – 2.90 ERA, best in MLB since the break, with a 10-5 record. Their offence is also trending upwards compared to the last two years. Jeff McNeil is second in MLB in batting average, Pete Alonso is third in home runs, Michael Conforto has hit 20 homers and Dom Smith has also been good offensively.
The Mets are 17th in team ERA, 10th in starters ERA, 14th in runs scored and, with the exception of 3rd-worst bullpen ERA, are a pretty balanced team in terms of the offence-defence comparison. None of those seem like an underperforming component. But, despite this, here they are, with a losing record.
The series at the Giants, where the Mets were on the losing end in three occasions, is an epitome of the Mets campaign. They lost three games on walk-offs, with their three best starting pitchers allowing a combined 4 runs.
The point is that, although Stroman can provide long-term stability to a rotation that’s locked for at least the next three years, except Zack Wheeler, the move was with the clear intention of a playoff push this season.
The Mets have three straight series against teams with worse records than them and are teams they are capable of beating. They have now won four in a row. A great couple of weeks with a good record against the White Sox, the Pirates and the Marlins will show that the Mets are ready to make that final step towards the wildcard.
Marcus Stroman also clearly improves a great rotation any way you look at it. He didn’t allow a run in two appearances as a reliever this year, but considering his recent success and the 99-pitch complete game shutout on Saturday, the other possibility is a Wheeler trade. In the latest run of the rotation, DeGrom and Matz gave up no runs, Wheeler and Jason Vargas gave up three and Syndergaard gave up four.
He has the highest ERA in the rotation and hasn’t been in his best shape all season long. The Mets can deal him while he still has value but, on the other hand, we all remember the second half he had last season so it’s probably best to see how Wheeler continues to do and how Matz eventually does in the bullpen.
The Mets need relievers and that’s what might tempt them to negotiate a deal for Wheeler or somebody else. But if Wheeler performs well and Matz plays well as a reliever, that will improve both parts of pitching and Mets win double.
The main concern is how the bad defence is going to do behind a groundball pitcher but I think that is something that will be less and less problematic because McNeil has started to do to really well in the outfield and Dominic Smith will be getting less and less playing time, even when he returns from injury.
While the Mets will be losing very little next year and this deal puts the 2020 team in even better situation, it was a buyer-type acquisition that has more impact on the team’s battle to change the outcome of the season, and that’s one of the reasons why Syndergaard is not going anywhere.