By: Chris Larson
The Marcus Stroman Era, as it shall be known, is officially over after weeks and weeks of speculation and negotiation surrounding where the 28-year old right-handed starting pitcher was going to ultimately end up. Stroman happened to be one of the bigger names on the market, but as the market clearly illustrated, contending teams that had interest in his services were hesitant to meet the steep asking price that the Toronto Blue Jays set.
Over the past few weeks, there have been plenty of reports released about who might be interested in Marcus Stroman and the type of return that the Blue Jays might have been seeking. Among the teams that were connected to Stroman over the past few weeks were the: Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and in-division rival, New York Yankees. Furthermore, among those reports, there was indication that the in-division rival, New York Yankees, had a significant amount of interest in the right-hander, but that Toronto was demanding the Yankees number one overall prospect, RHP Deivi Garcia.
Toronto likely demanded Garcia be included in the deal not only because of the year-and-a-half years of control left on Stroman's contract, but also because of the overall demand and the fact that the team played in the same division as the Blue Jays. Usually, teams within the same division rarely ever make deals with each other because it seems to be a forbidden ritual of the game and the price is typically increased over what it would otherwise be for teams, outside of that respective team's, division. That's exactly what happened in this scenario with the New York Yankees.
As such, Toronto wasn't going to budge until they felt as though they received a fair-market value offer in return and that return ended up coming to fruition earlier today with the New York Mets. In exchange of Marcus Stroman, the New York Mets ended up shipping off their number four prospect, LHP Anthony Kay and their number six overall prospect, RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson. Definitely a steep price to pay for a year-and-a-half control of Marcus Stroman, but the price a potential contending team had to pay given the current state of the market.
Aside from various reports about what starting pitchers, reliever's, and position players are being made available, there have been plenty of reports released about the significant value that sellers were seeking in any trade return packages that have come out over the past few weeks as well. On several occasions, it was noted that sellers were unwilling to move away from their high asking prices, despite the Trade Deadline being this coming Wednesday, and therefore many buyers thought that they could wait the market out in hopes of the prices dropping. It's unclear if the Toronto Blue Jays came down from their original asking price on Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets, but this is one of those deals where a team has to give quality to get quality in return.
That quality came in the form of a right-handed starting pitcher that could step into the middle of the Mets starting rotation and help them return to the path of competitiveness as soon as next year. While many throughout baseball have continually made the argument that the Mets should enter a complete rebuild, they are hesitant to do that because of the market they play in (New York), the team that plays across town from them (the Yankees), and the fact that the PR hit would be tremendously awful if they team entered a full blown rebuild. Therefore, Mets General Manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, along with the pressure of the Mets ownership group (The Wilpon Family), likely figured that they could continue sticking to the mission of trying to compete at the big league level, while attempting to build up the farm on the fly.
Regardless of that notion, it is interesting to note the type of players that have been traded during Van Wagenen's short tenure in Queens. According to Buster Olney of ESPN on Twitter, during Van Wagenen's "9-month [tenure with the Mets organization], 3 first-round picks and a second-round pick [have all been traded] from recent drafts." That alone helps to indicate the type of plan that the Mets have formulated to focus on winning now and going all-in without focusing on the future state of the organization. Van Wagenen, along with The Wilpon Family, likely figure that they can build up the depth of the farm system through the draft and eventually develop a grand organizational plan that includes various philosophies - despite how vague those philosophies might be right now.
Therefore, given that idea and the notion of the type of prospects the Mets gave up to acquire Marcus Stroman, it's evident that they are still poking around with the idea of trading pending free agent, Zack Wheeler, or even their second best pitcher the aforementioned, right-hander Noah Syndergaard. With Stroman in tow, the Mets now either have a very quality starting rotation that consists of deGrom, Syndergaard and Stroman at the top followed by Steven Matz and potentially the aforementioned, Zack Wheeler, if the Mets are able to reach an extension with Wheeler, which is another topic in and of itself. If the Mets elect to trade one of Wheeler or Syndergaard, then they have a legitimate arm that could replace either one in their current starting rotation.
On the other side of the deal, the Toronto Blue Jays elected to build up their minor league pitching depth with this deal and felt as though this was going to be the best trade offer they could receive for their highly touted pitcher prior to Wednesday's 4 o'clock Eastern Standard Time Trade Deadline. Even before this trade, the Blue Jays had some promising pitchers that were developing down in their system most notably in number two overall prospect, RHP Nate Pearson, but enhanced that depth with the additions of left-hander Anthony McKay and right-hander Simeon Woods-Richardson.
Anthony McKay, who now ranks as the Blue Jays fifth best prospect, is someone that many scouts project to eventually be a mid-rotation type pitcher. McKay, who has previously had Tommy John surgery, has pitched to the tune of a 3.13 ERA over 97.2 innings of work, so far this season between Double A and Triple A, with (96) strikeouts and a (.221) Opponent Batting Average Against. Scouts expect that as McKay continues to nurture and develop at the minor league level that he will eventually develop better command and control and enhance his overall pitch repertoire even more.
Beyond Anthony McKay, the Blue Jays also received back 18-year old right-handed pitcher, Simeon Woods-Richardson, who is now Toronto's seventh best overall prospect. Woods-Richardson is more of a wild card overall compared to McKay because some scouts are concerned that he will ultimately be able to handle the high workload required to be a starting pitcher at the big league level moving forward, but believe that with the right development the Blue Jays could potentially groom him into that type of guy. After all, Woods-Richardson is still only 18 years old and while he is currently on the reserve list, there is still plenty of development to take place and it will be a couple more years before the Blue Jays and the rest of baseball find out what type of pitcher he is.
Given the type of return that the Blue Jays ultimately received for Marcus Stroman, gives the indication that if the New York Mets ultimately elect to trade right-hander Noah Syndergaard, they most likely won't be able to receive back a Top 100 prospect in return. As mentioned before in this article, the San Diego Padres have been invested in conversations on Syndergaard the most over the past few days and despite having 10 prospects on the Top 100 prospects list, the Mets won't be able to make a fair argument to obtain any of them in return.
Earlier this evening, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB Network, reported that it is looking increasingly unlikely that the Padres will be willing to include their number one overall prospect and the third best prospect in all of baseball, LHP Mackenzie Gore, in any Syndergaard trade. While the Mets have been asking for a very significant return for Syndergaard and rightfully so, the Padres have thus far stayed discipline and have showed very little willingness to include any of their top prospects in a deal despite having a clear need for an established starting pitcher, such as Noah Syndergaard, in their starting rotation.
Beyond Mackenzie Gore, another name that has surfaced in various reports surrounding the San Diego Padres and their interest in certain available starting pitchers on the market is their number two overall prospect, infielder Luis Urias. Urias is a prospect that the Padres believe could someday be their full-time second baseman, but scouts and other industry advisors believe that Urias could someday occupy shortstop given his range and overall athleticism - a position that is being held down by superstar-in-the-making Fernando Tatis Jr. Despite that factor, San Diego believes that they have something special in Urias and won't include him in any trade deal either.
Therefore, if the San Diego Padres want to make a deal happen before Wednesday's deadline, they are going to have to hope that a seller's demands come down to a more neutral level or are going to have to hold tight and stay the course with the team they currently have, with hopes of making improvements during this coming offseason. Regardless of what happens, you have to give San Diego credit for being aggressive and attempting to make the necessary upgrades to compliment a young, up and coming team that features some exciting household names already in - first baseman Eric Hosmer, the aforementioned shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., third baseman Manny Machado, and outfielder Franmil Reyes.
Now that the first significant trade of the season has been completed, it is clear that the New York Mets have shifted the market into their favor and now will have control over what type of returns other sellers with valuable pitching assets will be able to net before Wednesday's deadline. For many sellers, their demands remain high and will continue to stay that way until the very end with hopes of not only building up their farm system, but finding the next potential superstar prospect. For buyers, the only hope is that those high asking prices come down and allow them to address their most urgent needs before the final bell rings.
No matter what happens, the fact is that while the New York Mets control the pitching market now and have easily the most attractable option in Noah Syndergaard, they won't be able to net high-end prospect talent given the return of the Marcus Stroman trade, the belief of the rest of the industry, and the overall state of the market as it looks right now.