Mets Take Ball And Go Home: The Trade For Marcus Stroman

TORONTO, ON - JULY 23: Toronto Blue Jays Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) in the dugout during to the regular season MLB game between the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays on July 23, 2019 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JULY 23: Toronto Blue Jays Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) in the dugout during to the regular season MLB game between the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays on July 23, 2019 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The New York Mets have reportedly traded their top two pitching prospects to the Toronto Blue Jays for the league’s top trade target in Marcus Stroman.

The New York Mets have a deal in place (pending physicals) to acquire starting pitcher Marcus Stroman from the Blue Jays, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter).

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson as the pitchers headed north. MLB.com pegs Kay and Woods-Richardson as the 5th and 20th best prospects in the Mets system, whereas Baseball America puts Kay at #4 and Woods-Richardson at #5. Kay had been BA’s #80 overall minor leaguer, but he fell off that list in their latest report.

The only starter universally valued higher on the totem pole of potential acquisitions is the Mets’ own Noah Syndergaard. Whether or not Syndergaard ultimately remains available is unknown. The Padres are a commonly-mentioned destination, but the Mets could just as easily hold onto him and fellow trade candidate (and impending free agent) Zack Wheeler.

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Projecting what Van Wagenen might do at this point is a fool’s errand, as this move already flies in the face of traditional baseball wisdom. Not only are the Mets a hefty 11 1/2 games behind the Braves for the division (in 4th place!), but they trail the Nationals/Cubs/Cardinals by 6 for the two Wild Card spots. Sadly, all this trade amounts to is an above-average hurler moving from one 4th place team to another.

Just to have a shot at the one-game playoff in October, the Mets will have to outplay 5 other teams by a considerable margin over the season’s final two months. They certainly have plenty of talent on hand, but there’s not a lot about these Mets that screams “one piece away.” But the ramifications of this deal goes way beyond one team simply overreaching.

Frankly, this deal is a bummer for everyone. Let’s catalog the losers:

Marcus Stroman has to be atop this list. Instead of pitching in a playoff race, he slots in as the second-or-third-best starter on perhaps the biggest dumpster fire of the 2019 season. He’ll get to hear another “we’ll get ’em next year” speech while plying his trade as a genuine wormkiller in front of the worst infield defense in the majors.

The Mets are losers here too, if only because they’ve acquired a year-and-a-half of a pitcher whom they can only substantially extract value from for one season. They banished Kay and Woods-Richardson to the frozen north in exchange just for Mets fans to have half a season to get to know Stroman pitch for a losing team – which I’m sure he’s thrilled about.

The move also puts a lot of added pressure on the team to win in 2020. If that sounds familiar, that’s because Van Wagenen put a lot of pressure on his team in 2019 with an all-in trade – which worked out super well.

When the Mets storm back to make the playoffs, and Marcus Stroman out-duels Max Scherzer in the NL Wild Card game, I’ll happily eat crow. Perhaps Deadspin’s favorite team will rally behind the shame of their season-to-date and pull this off. For now, count me among the skeptics.

Actual contenders might be the biggest losers here. They should be embarrassed. Everyone needs pitching, and that nobody was willing to pony up enough prospect capital to outbid the 50-55 Mets is a joke. Good luck with Mike Minor.

For the Cardinals, A’s, Red Sox, Yankees, Twins, and Astros – there really is no excuse. The Cubs have greater needs than their rotation and Cole Hamels returning, and they don’t have much of a farm anyway. The Rays don’t use starters so I’ll let them off the hook as well.

The Brewers might not have had the arms to pull this off, but I’m gonna count them among the losers until I hear they made an honest effort. Their need is great enough that they should have pulled the trigger if there was one to pull (so long as it didn’t involve Keston Hiura).

The Braves, Nationals, and Phillies should feel particularly sheepish. They all have needs in the rotation, and they’re all looking down on the Mets (both in the standings and, let’s be honest, elsewise).

The Nats rotation is their greatest strength, but the number five spot is a question mark, they’re barren beyond their top-6 (no, Joe Ross does not count), and Max Scherzer may not be healthy. They’ve come too far this season to stand pat now.

The Braves haven’t figured out their rotation after Mike Soroka, Julio Teheran, and Dallas Keuchel. They couldn’t have outbid the Mets here? Pitching prospect depth is supposed to be their strength. Pitching is not. Not, apparently, is trading.

The Phillies have certainly been aggressive in improving their standing over the last six months, but they remain undermanned. Their rotation is so weak right now that they’re sticking with Jake Arrieta even though he needs surgery.

Manager Gape Kapler even suggested that Arrieta at 85% is probably better than what they have in Triple-A right now. If that’s true, then what the heck are they doing? Trade for Marcus Stroman! They’re trotting out a 33-year-old pitcher with a 5.00 FIP who needs elbow surgery AS THEIR NUMBER 2 STARTER. 

The biggest loser in this deal is the sport of baseball. Taking one of the few competent pitchers available and putting him on the non-competing Mets means that none of our contenders have gotten stronger. Better teams means better baseball, and all this trade accomplishes is removing another talented pitcher from meaningful baseball games.

Give Van Wagenen credit for doing his best to turn his club into a winner, but making this deal at this stage of the season is tantamount to taking the ball and going home. Now nobody gets to have any fun.

The Blue Jays had to deal him, and they now have a brighter future with two more pitching prospects in the fold. But even for the them, this feels like a light return. On the surface this is a seller’s market – and while the underlying patterns suggest that’s not at all true – they couldn’t still should have been able to extract a Top-100 prospect and a couple of pieces on the side in return for the best starting pitcher on the market – who has already been worth 2.9 fWAR this season.

The perfect conclusion here will be if the Mets turn around and deal Syndergaard to another non-contender in the Padres, as has been rumored. Because why should any of the good pitchers play for playoff teams?

If there’s a winner here, it’s probably the Dodgers, who just watched as the rest of the league whiffed on a potential upgrade that could have challenged them come playoff time. That they’re own success through years of prudence and self-control likely played a role in teams toward this timid trading season makes this even juicier.

Instead of pitching in the postseason, Stroman will likely watch the playoffs from home for the third straight season, wondering what might have been if some other team had ponied up the prospect capital and actually made a run at winning the World Series in 2019.

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When the Mets hired Brodie Van Wagenen as their GM, it was safe to assume some non-conventional things were on the horizon. This certainly qualifies. Stroman pitching out the string for the Mets is tasty content today, but when September baseball rolls around, watching him toil away on another fourth place eastern division team won’t be fun for anyone.