The saying goes that sports talent increases over time, which is why you see runners in Olympics continue to break records to this day, or fastball velocity in baseball continues to increase despite the fact that numbered results—ERA, home runs, etc. (other than strikeouts)—have stayed relatively stable over the years. Phil Hughes, of all people to make this point, made a good point about the increase in talent level:
I’m gonna get killed for this but Whitey’s throwing like 80 mph https://t.co/OlFS3zfDo8— Phil Hughes (@PJHughes45) December 4, 2018
Whitey Ford, one of the better pitchers of that era and one of the best starters the Yankees have ever had, probably wouldn’t have the stuff to crack the big leagues in 2018. From that perspective, and to pivot a bit, it becomes clearer about what the Mets should do about Noah Syndergaard when considering this one, simple statement:
Syndergaard has the best raw stuff of any starting pitcher in the history of baseball.
Maybe... fifteen or so years ago, the average fastball velocity, a four-seam fastball with little tail or run, was 92 mph. Syndergaard throws his slider at 93 mph. His sinker is 98 mph. He walks almost exactly two batters per nine innings. If you were to build a pitcher from scratch, he would look almost exactly like him.
That doesn’t mean he’s perfect, of course, and it’s mostly the reason why he shouldn’t be traded. For one, he has yet to toss 200 innings in any season, so he has three, excellent 150+ inning seasons under his belt. That’s fine, but that still limits your value even if you’re throwing at a 75 ERA- clip.
That only increases the leverage for teams trying to acquire him, in that way. If his value is limited by a possible injury, then opposing teams will certainly try to low-ball based on median projections and not his best case, where he throws on average 150 innings for a total of 450. If he’s worth five wins per 200 innings, then let’s say he’s worth, say, 11 wins? Just a guess here.
Not to mention you could also acquire one of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, or Trevor Bauer, and the first of those doesn’t have the injury concerns. Playing against them and with question marks abound mean that there is no possible way to get the return they want for the ceiling that he actually has. It would also be ridiculous considering their new contention window.
While thought to be totally closed, the acquisition of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz means they are probably something more like an 85-90 win team, and now they are connected to both JT Realmuto and free agent AJ Pollock. Acquire both of them, then trading Syndergaard would be an impossibility along with extending Jacob deGrom on the horizon.
This is likely the last hurrah before another Mets rebuild. There’s a lot that needs to go right for it to work, but Syndergaard would have to be part of it for it to work, otherwise they would fall into the same trap of 2016-18, essentially relying on the Jenga tower not collapsing for them to be successful. For the first time in a while, their ducks seem to be in a row. And with the pitcher with the best stuff in baseball history on the bump, you hold on to that closer than ever.