Keidel: Mets Shouldn't Break The Bank For Noah Syndergaard Extension

Thor Must Prove This Season He Deserves Long-Term Deal

Jason Keidel
January 18, 2020 - 8:00 am

For a team too well known for bad trades (Robinson Cano), signing the wrong free agents (Jed Lowrie) and lavishing contracts on the wrong stars (Yoenis Cespedes), the Mets got one deal absurdly right. 

On Dec. 17, 2012, the Mets traded Cy Young Award winner and Mesozoic knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays for Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. While d'Arnaud seemed to have a fine future, Syndergaard was the steal of the deal. He was 22, built like a power forward, and tickled triple-digits on the radar gun. 

Syndergaard was a cornerstone pitcher on the staff who led the Mets to the 2015 World Series. Even when Matt Harvey was the ace, Syndergaard was either his successor or soon to be his equal. Then when Harvey dissolved into a thousand irretrievable pieces, the Mets had their ace-in-waiting in the hulking blonde already armed with his comic book sobriquet: Thor. 

Noah Syndergaard pitches against the Washington Nationals during the Mets Home Opening game at Citi Field on April 04, 2019 in New York City.
Al Bello/Getty Images

So naturally, Harvey was replaced by a better pitcher who had none of the Dark Knight's fondness for long nights, hunger for supermodels or lust for life on Page Six. 

Jacob deGrom. 

While Syndergaard seemed perfectly suited to assume the role as the club's ace and face, it was deGrom who turned into Tom Seaver, running away with the Cy Young Award in 2018 with one of the finest summers a pitcher has ever produced. Then deGrom got paid and followed up one Cy Young by bagging another the next year. 

While Syndergaard wasn't forgotten, he did not bogart the ball, bold ink or marquee. He's been good with flashes of great. He hypnotizes us with his talent, leaves batters spellbound with his quiver of pitches, then either falls into a funk of inconstancy or his body betrays him with injuries. 

Last week, the Mets settled with the arbitration-eligible pitcher for $9.7 million this season. SNY's Andy Martino said at the time that he has no idea if either the Mets or Syndergaard have any plans or desires to make this a long-term, lockdown relationship. That's a slight upgrade from six months ago, when Martino, and the rest of the Mets cognoscenti were sure that Thor would take his hammer elsewhere. 

Does that sound right? That a pitcher of his heft, age and wage has at best a murky future with the Mets? Not long ago, he was the most popular player and most naturally talented pitcher on a team on the rise, He was cool, self-effacing and even made a verbal septic tank like Twitter a fun place to visit. 

But his big frame has fissures. He has too many scalp-scratching performances. And his normally humorous comments have occasionally turned caustic toward the team. Maybe his moments of irritation are sparked by his physical failures that lead to the injured list, or mental failures that get him booted from the mound too early in the game. 

Syndergaard, 27, has a 47-30 career record with a 3.31 ERA. Though the Mets finished 10 games over .500 last year, Syndergaard was just 10-8 with a 4.29 ERA in 32 starts. 

It may not feel fair to compare him to deGrom today, but it was quite fair a few years ago. Indeed, 2016 was Synderaard's only All-Star season, when he went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and 218 strikeouts in 183 2/3 innings. He was 23, and, as a pitcher, was at least deGrom's equal. As a prospect who was two years younger than deGrom, his talent was even more tantalizing. Since then, deGrom has gone Secretariat on Syndergaard, and the sport. 

Either way, it feels safe to say the Mets should not break the bank and sign Syndergaard to a nine-digit deal. If his body was balky at 24, it may only get worse as he inches toward 30. At the very least, this season is a de facto audition for his Mets future and surely his next contract. Even those of us who dig Syndergaard -- yours truly predicted he would win the NL Cy Young last year -- can't see the Mets dropping a five-year, $137 million on Syndergaard's desk, as they did with deGrom. 

Sometimes we like an athlete so much personally we become physically blinded to his warts, wrongdoings or maladies. Thor looked so good, pitched so well and sounded so swell, we just glossed over the fact that he hasn't reached his potential even though he's in his prime.

At worst, Syndergaard leaves the Mets next November with some good memories. At best, he drops his hammer on MLB and proves he's the pitcher we thought he was. While he once had years to make his mark on the Mets, he's now got six months to make it impossible or inevitable for the Mets to let him go. 

Follow Jason on Twitter:@JasonKeidel