If the Mets make Noah Syndergaard available via trade, he could instantly become the best starting pitcher available.He's younger and has a higher ceiling than Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi or any of the top free-agent starters this offseason. There have been some big names mentioned on the trade
If the Mets make Noah Syndergaard available via trade, he could instantly become the best starting pitcher available.
He's younger and has a higher ceiling than Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi or any of the top free-agent starters this offseason. There have been some big names mentioned on the trade front -- Zack Greinke with the D-backs, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco with the Indians -- but Syndergaard is much younger than all of them (all three are 30 or older), and he has the best pure stuff of the group.
Syndergaard's name is starting to circulate in the Hot Stove rumor mill. On Sunday, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal detailed what a potential Syndergaard trade could look like (subscription required), and SNY's Andy Martino has reported that teams' interest in Syndergaard is "serious and real," and that the Mets might in fact be willing to deal the big right-hander, the 1-A in their rotation behind Jacob deGrom.
So where would Syndergaard be a fit? The short answer is: most anywhere. He's just that good. But here are five teams that could especially use a pitcher like Thor.
When ESPN's Buster Olney reported last week that the Cubs might be open to trading Kristopher Bryant, Syndergaard quickly came up as one of the players who could be a headliner of a package for the superstar third baseman. The Cubs have yet to show serious interest in Syndergaard, according to several reports, but the fit is there on both sides. Both Bryant and Syndergaard are 26 years old; both are controllable for the next three seasons; both have elite ability at their positions. Bryant would give the Mets a cornerstone at a position where they badly need one, as David Wright's successor at third. Syndergaard would give the Cubs the type of dominant power pitcher they don't have in their rotation. If the Cubs were to ever pull the trigger on such a massive deal, they could, for example, seek out a replacement for Bryant in free agency -- Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson are out there, after all.
The Cubs have their share of starting pitchers, but none have the type of arm Syndergaard does. Kyle Hendricks is a command and finesse artist, and Jonathan Lester, Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana all sit in the low 90s with their fastballs. Cubs starters had an average fastball velocity of 90.7 mph last season, second-lowest of any team. Syndergaard, between his four-seamer and sinker, averaged 97.4 mph, second-highest among regular starters. His average slider velocity, 92 mph, was more than a full mph faster than the Cubs' average fastball velocity.
The Padres are definitely interested in Syndergaard, according to Martino's recent report and another from Rosenthal (subscription required). San Diego also has the blue-chip prospects it might need to get a deal done, headlined by star infielder Fernando Tatis Jr. (the No. 2 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline) and catcher Francisco Mejia (No. 26 overall, No. 2 catching prospect). Tatis might be a year or so away, but Mejia could help the Mets immediately at a position that might be their biggest hole.
Syndergaard would give the Padres an immediate ace. None of San Diego's regular starters in 2018 had an ERA under 4.00, and none struck out 150 batters. Syndergaard had a 3.03 ERA and 155 strikeouts in his 25 starts, and 2018 wasn't even his best season. He had a 2.60 ERA and 218 strikeouts in '16. And Syndergaard's just hitting his prime, so he'd still be an anchor for the rotation when the Padres' wave of the future comes up. San Diego has a ton of young pitching talent in the pipeline, including seven pitching prospects who rank among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 overall -- the best of them being 19-year-old left-hander MacKenzie Gore (No. 13 overall).
3. White Sox
Like the Padres, the White Sox have a slate of talented prospects they could use to put together a package for a pitcher of Syndergaard's caliber. Those include several excellent outfield prospects, which could become an area of need for the Mets down the line with Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce set to hit free agency after 2020. The Mets do want to contend now, but Rosenthal notes that wouldn't necessarily preclude them from taking a prospect-heavy return for Syndergaard, as they could flip some of those prospects for a Major League asset.
The White Sox are an up-and-coming team, with young talent at both the Major League and Minor League level, and they want to open up their window to compete. That means looking for long-term value -- for example, they've been linked to free agents Bryce Harper, Machado and Corbin. But a trade could make sense, too, especially if they lose out on someone like Corbin, who will draw a lot of competition from other teams. Syndergaard would headline Chicago's staff in 2019 and beyond. Imagine Thor and Michael Kopech at the top of the rotation in 2020, when Kopech returns from Tommy John surgery. That could make for one of the most fearsome starting-pitching tandems in the league.
The Astros already have Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who might be the best one-two punch in all of baseball. A three-headed monster that also included Syndergaard would be even scarier. And even a powerhouse like Houston is in the market for starting pitching, with Keuchel and Charlie Morton hitting free agency this offseason. The Astros still have their share of high-end prospects in the system, and of course they have their core of young stars at the Major League level. If they had the will to make a blockbuster move, they'd have the resources.
Syndergaard also looks like he might fit the same mold of pitchers like Verlander and Cole -- whose elite stuff has been maximized by Houston's analytics approach. Like Verlander and Cole before they came to the Astros, Syndergaard has an overpowering four-seam fastball, but throws his sinker more often (32.8 percent sinkers vs. 20.7 percent four-seamers in 2018). The Astros convinced Verlander and Cole to scrap their two-seamers, and they rode that change to Cy Young Award contention. Perhaps Syndergaard could do the same. Houston also helped Verlander and Cole take better advantage of their wipeout breaking pitches; Syndergaard throws the hardest slider of any starter, and mixes in a curveball, too. If any team can get more out of those pitches, it's probably the Astros.
They have already traded for Mariners ace James Paxton, but the Yankees are in the market for multiple starters. They were linked to Syndergaard and deGrom leading up to the Trade Deadline last season, but nothing materialized. Syndergaard would be a huge addition for a Yankees team that's in win-now mode. New York has made the playoffs two straight years but fell to the eventual World Series champs in both 2017 and '18 -- first the Astros, then the rival Red Sox. Having Syndergaard in the rotation could be the difference.
If the Yankees had Thor, they'd have the two hardest-throwing starters in the Majors, with Syndergaard's fastball velocity right alongside Luis Severino. Both Syndergaard and Severino have excellent sliders, too. Severino had a 37.4 percent whiff rate on swings against his slider in 2018, and a 38.9 percent strikeout rate in plate appearances ending on the pitch; Syndergaard had a 46.1 percent whiff rate, and a 41.0 percent strikeout rate, on his slider.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.