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Inbox Zero: Would you revisit the Noah Syndergaard trade talks?

[This piece first appeared in Derek Wetmore’s Twins newsletter and has been republished here. If you’d like to be first to get future newsletters, consider signing up below.]

This column is not about revisionist history but I guess that if you wanted to you could call it revisionist future.

I’ve received notes from listeners and readers over the past couple week and finally I’ve decided on the best way to answer them is to share the best stuff with you all. So consider this the first installment of Inbox Zero.

Reader Michael writes in:

Derek – Has anyone brought up the idea of trading for Noah Syndergaard *now*?

To paraphrase the rest of the note, “now” just means whenever transactions are unfrozen, so the idea is you’d be trading for the remaining year of Thor’s pre-free-agency, post-Tommy-John-surgery. [Reasons include the ownership group situation, and the ex-agent-turned-GM who likes to deal. Falvey and Levine seem to have no issue acquiring an injured pitcher and letting them take their time before they appear in a Twins uniform. (Rich Hill, Big Mike Pineda). I’ll hang up and listen.]

Good place to start! And now you see why I might allow you to call this column a revisionist future story. Do you see a trade happening this year? Nonetheless, I like it and I like where he’s coming from, so let’s dive into this Reckless Speculation.

The first question that will come to mind at the jump is standard by now. Will there be an MLB season in 2020? It doesn’t seem like a slam-dunk certainty, although definitely possible, so let’s unpack the rest.

2. Remember the old reported asking price of Byron Buxton for Syndergaard, one-for-one?

All right, well that’s interesting. And at that point we were talking about two full seasons plus a stretch run for Thor. And three-plus-a-stretch for Buck. So, now what’s left is 2 more for Buxton, plus whatever becomes of the 2020 season. Now knowing that Syndergaard will miss at least a full year following Tommy John surgery, that leaves at best one season left under contract for him.

If the Mets thought that was even value then, they might concede now that the scales have tipped toward rolling with Buxton instead of one season of a post-TJ fireballer. So let’s just use it to inform their belief in the relative value here.

If you project Buxton to be something like a 3-win player over the next three years – extremely athletic and capable, though always carrying the lurking question of availability.

For these purposes let’s just use some fuzzy math and give Buxton annual arbitration-controlled salaries of $3 million, $7 million and $15 million, to account for the potential on either side for shorter seasons and breakout stardom. So, $25 million for roughly 9 Wins Above Replacement the next three years, does that sound about right?

Maybe that’s close or maybe we’re crazy. I just wanted to outline what the Mets allegedly thought – past tense – of Thor’s trade value at the time.

The Mets asked for Byron Buxton? Would you make the trade?

The Mets asked for Byron Buxton? Would you make the trade?

Posted by SKOR North on Tuesday, July 30, 2019

3. Now keep in mind what you’d actually get.

The righty had ligament replacement surgery in late-March, and a 12-month return time seems aggressive, even with the marvels of modern medicine, strength & conditioning, recovery, etc. Let’s knock a month off the start of next season. In theory, you’d still accept that if you’re the Twins, because the primary goal would seem to be creating the best October roster, including the most complete pitching staff.

Let’s not ignore the fact that the famous UCL surgery is not a panacea. Consider, if you would, Thor’s own teammates. Jacob deGrom has had the surgery, and he went on to win Rookie of the Year and is now pitching on back-to-back N.L. Cy Young awards. Matt Harvey, on the other hand, has not had as much success after surgery.

I don’t know what level of pitching Syndergaard can attain in 2021; what I’m saying is it seems like a pretty clearly defined risk with little time to smooth out any variance in performance.

4. The Mets were expected to be right in the thick of thing in the N.L. East this year.

Will that change with a shortened season? Would they trade a player who won’t help them this year to try to win more games in 2020? (Would that even happen as a general premise?) Does Brodie Van Wagenen have any tricks for the upcoming year? And does the fact that the Wilpon family reportedly are trying to sell the franchise play into this in any way?

Remember when the biggest story in baseball was that the Mets were for sale?

5. Do the Twins need starting pitching in 2021?

Jake Odorizzi could become a free agent after this season, whether it’s played or not. Rich Hill could be healthy enough to pitch by mid-summer 2020, and he just turned 40 years old with a one-year contract in hand. Michael Pineda is pitching on a two-year contract with the Twins. If the season is not played in 2020, Pineda and the Twins can consider that sentence served.

To cut to the point, yes, the Twins will probably be looking for pitching in some important way. Much is unclear about the prospect of playing baseball this year in general. It’s even less clear to me what downstream impacts that could have on veteran players and youngsters alike. For vets, would this bizarre and unforeseen circumstance extend careers or halt them suddenly? For the kids, will this amount to lost development time for Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic?

If you would like to have your question featured in a future Inbox Zero, subscribe to the list and respond to any newsletter that you’d like. Responses go to my work email as a reply. I read them all.

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