At a presser in Appleton - home of the Class-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers - over the weekend, GM David Stearns discussed how he and his staff may approach trade discussions over the next four weeks in advance of the deadline. Stearns told the assembled media that he is pleased with the current performance from his group of starters in the rotation, and that he won’t be looking to add any more “depth” arms to the fold in the coming month. According to Stearns, if the Brewers are going to expend prospect capital on a starter, it will be on someone who can help “lead the rotation.”
Some teams have already established whether they’ll be buyers or sellers at the deadline by this point in the season. The Brewers are one of several teams that will be on the lookout for additions and upgrades, while the New York Mets are one of the few teams that have already declared themselves ‘open for business.’ They are currently being led by the interim-GM trio of John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi, and Omar Minaya while Sandy Alderson seeks treatment for the return of his cancer, and on the first day that group took over front office operations, Ricco announced that “everything is on the table” in terms of trade scenarios. That includes fielding offers for ace starters Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, who look like they’ll be the top two assets available for buyers this summer.
According to a report from John Harper of the New York Daily News, the Brewers may very well be looking to broker a deal for the younger member of the Mets’ dynamic duo:
Sources say the Brewers, sensing a chance to make a big splash in October, are very interested in dealing for Syndergaard.
Syndergaard, who will turn 26 later this summer, was a supplemental first-round pick by the Blue Jays back in 2010 and was sent to New York as a part of the R.A. Dickey trade. He made his big league debut as a 22 year old back in 2015, and in parts of four seasons since then he’s authored a sterling 2.92 ERA and incredible 65 FIP- and 53 DRA- across 428.2 innings. One of the hardest throwers in the big leagues, the long-haired pitching demigod known as “Thor” averages a blistering 98.4 MPH on his four-seamer this season and also throws a sinker, slider, changeup, and curveball. He checks in with 10.4 K/9 in his career against a minuscule 1.9 BB/9, and he’s induced grounders at a 49.5% clip. Home runs have never really been an issue for Syndergaard either, as he’s allowed only 0.7 HR/9 as a big leaguer. In fact, opponents have only recorded hard contact against him at a 26.4% rate during his career.
From a pure skill standpoint, Syndergaard does not seem to have any weaknesses as a pitcher. He throws incredibly hard, misses tons of bats, doesn’t walk guys, can retire both lefties and righties, and when batters do put it in play, he keeps the ball on the ground, in the park, while inducing weak contact. But if there’s one bugaboo about Thor, it’s his checkered health history. He pitched 150.0 innings in his debut season and then made 30 starts and tossed 183.2 frames in his first full year in the big leagues in 2016, but he’s been hampered by some injury issues since then. He made only seven starts in 2017 while dealing with a torn right lat, but was able to rehab and get back to full strength for 2018 without his performance suffering at all. Noah made 11 starts and pitched to a 3.06 ERA and 44 DRA- in 64.2 innings this season, but a strained ligament in the index finger of his right hand has kept him on the shelf since late May. He did throw a successful bullpen session recently, though, and barring a setback he should be ready to return to active duty before too long.
Even with the questions about his durability, Syndergaard’s skillset and remaining club control make him an incredibly valuable asset for the Mets. He was arbitration eligible for the first time this past winter as a Super Two player and will have another three seasons of club control remaining after the conclusion of the 2018 campaign. With that in mind, Harper takes it upon himself to propose a package of Keston Hiura, Corbin Burnes, and Corey Ray heading to New York in exchange for Thor to come to Milwaukee.
“Really quick bat with a solid approach at the plate,” one scout said [re: Hiura]. “He should hit for average and power. Not a great defender but adequate.” ... He and Burnes would be the key pieces to the trade. Burnes, 23, is projected to be a No. 3-type starter in the big leagues. Throws 93-94 mph with a very good curve ball, and with a slider and change-up as well. Scouts like his polish...Ray, 23, was the fifth overall pick in 2016, and after he struggled his first couple of years in the minors, scouts see significant progress this year in Double-A, where he’s hitting .250 with 10 home runs, 20 doubles, and 19 stolen bases.
From where I stand, that proposal seems a bit light for someone of Thor’s ilk. Harper does well to explain why each of the young players mentioned would be an enticing get for New York, but given other suggestions that it might take a package closer to the level of the Sale or Quintana deals to net deGrom or Syndergaard, I’m guessing that at least one more good prospect heading to the Big Apple would be necessary in order for Slingin’ Stearns and the Mets’ three-headed GM to agree on a deal.
Milwaukee still has the NL’s best record at 48-34 and their starting rotation has been solid this season, ranking 13th in baseball with a culumative 3.91 ERA. But adding Noah Syndergaard would immediately improve the group now and for the next three seasons and would certainly make the team a much more intimidating foe as they attempt to end the Cubs’ reign of dominance in the NL Central. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this and plenty of other rumors before July 31st rolls around.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus