NEW YORK -- A sense of discomfort rippled through central Queens on Tuesday as news broke that Noah Syndergaard had agreed to a one-year, $21 million deal with the Angels. It was just seven weeks earlier that Syndergaard publicly professed his love to the Mets, saying, “New York has a special place in my heart” and offering confidence that he'd "be pitching here next year.” A qualifying offer, he said, was something he “would be extremely grateful for.”
In the end, Syndergaard used that $18.4 million offer for leverage, turning it into a one-year contract with the Angels. In swapping the high rises of Flushing for the beaches of Orange County, Syndergaard ended his nine-season run in the Mets organization. He also left his former team with more questions than answers.
For the Mets, though, Syndergaard’s departure is not all bad. Here are the primary ways in which it affects them:
Some around the industry considered it a risk for the Mets to extend the $18.4 million qualifying offer to Syndergaard, who has thrown two innings over the last two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Team officials never saw it that way given the potential gains. But now that Syndergaard is gone, the Mets will receive a compensatory Draft pick following Competitive Balance Round B -- typically about the 70th pick.
Combined with their first three selections, plus an extra pick for not signing Kumar Rocker last summer, that gives the Mets five picks in the first 80 to 85 selections of the 2022 Draft -- plus another if free agent Michael Conforto signs elsewhere. It’s a significant opportunity for the new front office, which can use those selections to infuse a middling farm system with talent.
Mets officials understand that as much as they can improve their roster using owner Steve Cohen’s billions in free agency, the path to sustained success is through the Draft, and Syndergaard has just presented them with an excellent opportunity to go down that path in a significant way.
In the short-term, there’s no sugarcoating Syndergaard’s departure. More than potential Draft pick compensation, the Mets extended him a qualifying offer because they thought he could stabilize their rotation. Now the starting five looks like this:
• Jacob deGrom: Missed the entire second half due to inflammation in right elbow
• Carlos Carrasco: Missed four months to a torn right hamstring before undergoing elbow surgery in the offseason
• Taijuan Walker: ERA jumped from 2.66 in the first half to 7.13 in the second half during a significant increase in innings
• Tylor Megill: Also faded during an unprecedented increase in innings, posting a 6.13 ERA over his final 11 starts
• David Peterson: Missed the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his right foot in July
Although the Mets hope all those pitchers will be significant contributors in 2022, they’re also well aware of the need for reinforcements. In years past, that has generally taken the form of depth acquisitions. With Syndergaard gone, the Mets will likely need to sign one or two starters whom they can guarantee rotation jobs.
The most obvious candidate is Marcus Stroman, New York’s steadiest pitcher in 2021. Although some skepticism remains within the organization that the Mets will re-sign him, their familiarity with him gives them an advantage over some other clubs.
If Stroman goes elsewhere, the Mets could look at any number of alternative options, including Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, Carlos Rodón, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood. It’s near-certain that the team will land someone from the free-agent pool because with Syndergaard gone, their need -- and thus their motivation -- has increased.
So long, Noah
Of course, on Tuesday morning, most folks were still stinging from the emotional aspects of Syndergaard’s departure. Part of the blockbuster trade that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto following Dickey's 2012 Cy Young season, Syndergaard rapidly developed from a hard-throwing teenager into one of the game’s best prospects. He debuted with much fanfare in 2015, then was the winning pitcher in the only World Series game the Mets have won in the last two decades.
Known both for his triple-digit fastball and mid-90s slider, Syndergaard began struggling through injuries after that, from a lat tear that cost him much of the 2017 season to the torn UCL that knocked him out for all of 2020 and nearly all of ’21 before he turned around and headed to California.