Inbox: Should Mets try to extend Syndergaard?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans

April 2nd, 2020

Just because much of the world is sheltering in place right now doesn’t mean we can’t use the time to talk a little baseball. While we wait for the sport to return, this seems an appropriate moment to dig into the Inbox. Here’s the latest batch of Mets questions and answers:

Would the Mets consider extending Noah Syndergaard over the next year? They would seem to have a good amount of leverage.
-- @mBLASzKa via Twitter

In my call for Inbox questions, I received a lot like this one: people wondering, in light of Syndergaard’s Tommy John operation, if the Mets might consider extending him? He has two years left of team control, but will miss all of the first one -- at a minimum -- while recovering from surgery. Perhaps the Mets could lock him up at a discount?

My answer is: I doubt it. The Mets don’t have a long history of signing stars to extensions, most recently making exceptions for franchise icons David Wright and Jacob deGrom. Despite his obvious talent, Syndergaard isn’t on that level due to inconsistencies and injury issues throughout his career. Syndergaard has also been openly critical of the front office for dangling him in trade rumors throughout 2018-19, which could play a role in his desire to stick around long term.

The most important reason why this is unlikely, though, requires looking at the situation from Syndergaard’s perspective. As you mention, Syndergaard just lost a bunch of leverage. His value took a hit. So why would he sign now, when he could simply wait a year, try to come back strong in 2021 and hit the open market after that? At best, he could find a larger deal awaiting him than the Mets would offer now. At worst, he would be 29 years old, still plenty young enough to sign a one-year pillow contract and try for a big score in '22. For those reasons, I just think Syndergaard’s surgery makes it more likely -- not less likely -- that he becomes a free agent after the '21 season.

You think Yoenis Céspedes is going to make the Opening Day roster now with the delay of the season?
-- @nick_cro via Twitter

I do, and not simply because the delay gives him more time to work his way back from injury. Whenever the baseball season resumes, if rosters are allowed to be larger than normal, that would solve a giant problem for the Mets and Céspedes. With larger rosters, the Mets won’t have to worry about a less-than-100-percent Céspedes eating up a bench spot. They could use him as a pinch-hitter at worst, and an everyday player at best, or somewhere in between.

This still requires Céspedes to be healthy enough to play, but he was close to appearing in games as a designated hitter before Spring Training broke. Given the extra months to prepare, I think he stands a strong chance of being on the Opening Day roster in some form.

Have the Mets reached out to Matt Harvey to see if there is any mutual interest in a reunion?
-- @jmcglew13 via Instagram

To my knowledge, no. The Mets weren’t interested in Harvey when he failed to land even a Minor League deal this winter. I find it hard to believe they would be interested now, particularly considering their checkered history with him.

Being that Syndergaard is out for a year-plus, is it possible we see David Peterson in the big leagues?
-- @millmanner via Instagram

Now here’s a more realistic option. Yes, I do think Peterson, the Mets’ first-round Draft pick in 2017, has a strong chance to make the big leagues this season. He still won’t be in New York on Opening Day, but he could be by midseason -- either as a starter or a reliever. Mets officials took note of the extra velocity Peterson showed in Spring Training, which can only help his cause.

If you’re the Mets, are you offering Michael Conforto or Syndergaard an extension? If so, then when?
-- @john_giammarino via Instagram

You’re probably asking the wrong person, because I would offer most homegrown starters team-friendly extensions early in their careers. The bulk of them would say no, but those types of deals almost never come back to haunt teams. Even if they don’t work out, they tend to be cheap with big upside.

Syndergaard is a unique case for the reasons listed in a previous question, but Conforto remains an obvious extension candidate -- and he’s hinted publicly that he would love to talk. Why the Mets haven’t approached him yet, I’m not entirely sure, but with two years left until he hits free agency, they’re running out of time and leverage. If he doesn’t sign this coming offseason, it’s hard to imagine him avoiding the open market.

(While I’m at it, I’d offer Pete Alonso an extension, too. Why not try to buy out any bit of that guy’s free agency while you can?)

Whose season is more important: Conforto or Amed Rosario?
-- @albrown_2131 via Instagram

Rosario, and I don’t think it’s particularly close. Although the Mets believe Conforto can still reach another level, his floor at this point is something close to an All-Star-caliber outfielder. Even if Conforto never improves, you can count on him hitting between 25-35 homers annually for the next few years. That’s pretty good.

Rosario’s potential outcomes seem more varied. Is he the player he was in the first half last season, when he hit .260/.299/.414 and was a defensive liability? Or is he the Rosario we saw after the break, when he hit .319/.351/.453 and looked far better in the field? This season should go a long way toward determining which one is for real. Forced to choose, I’d lean toward the latter. Remember, Rosario is still just 24 years old, almost a full year younger than Alonso. There’s obvious room here for him to grow.

What’s your thoughts of batting Jeff McNeil third and Alonso fourth?
-- @kevindarling35 via Instagram

I dislike that. McNeil is the Mets’ best pure hitter and should be receiving as many at-bats as possible. That means batting him first or second (and if Luis Rojas’ Grapefruit League lineup configurations were any indication, leadoff seems likely). Alonso is the Mets’ top slugger, so the same logic applies. He needs to hit second or third. I suspect he will.

The team is slotting McNeil to play every day at third base, but do they plan on him playing multiple positions still?
-- @LukeFelice via Twitter

Only if needed. The idea is to keep giving McNeil reps at second base and the corner-outfield spots, but he won’t play at any of those positions unless injuries necessitate it. In the Mets’ perfect world, McNeil will start almost every game at third base.

Is Robert Gsellman going to ever find a role on this team or is he going to continue to float between reliever and starter?
-- @ScaturroDan via Twitter

To me, there aren’t many players more intriguing than Gsellman right now. The Mets have a plan to stretch him out a bit more than usually, allowing him to routinely deliver two- or even three-inning stints in relief. That could make him the perfect candidate to serve as an opener, should the Mets choose to go in that direction, or it could give them a Seth Lugo clone on days when Lugo is unavailable. Despite often being linked to him, Gsellman hasn’t mirrored Lugo’s production so far in his career. Still, scouts remain high on his potential. He could be a key to the Mets’ improved bullpen.

Are the Mets going to be playing Brandon Nimmo cautiously to prevent heart issues?
-- @jason.labrador via Instagram

No, Nimmo’s heart shouldn’t be a factor in his playing time. The issue that caused him to miss time for testing during Spring Training is something he’s been dealing with for years. There’s nothing new here, and it doesn’t affect Nimmo at all in his life. He should be just fine.

Better Mets team, ’06 or ’15?
-- @richardknott via Instagram

Although they didn’t make it as far, I have to go with 2006. That group was essentially the National League’s best team wire to wire, which the 2015 team can’t say. I consider that a rarer feat than getting hot at the right time, as the ’15 team did.

Of course, the 2015 Mets achieved some incredibly difficult things as well. I just feel ’06 was the more complete roster, top to bottom.