When the season began, it didn’t seem like the Yankees and Mets would make for good trade partners. The Yankees were always expected to contend entering the year, and when the Mets roared out to an 11-1 start, it was hard to envision them being in a position to rebuild midseason. Yet here we are, with the Yankees trying to make a pennant push, and the Mets mired in misery.
The Mets are out of it. They have posted an unspeakable 25-52 record since that scorching start, and sit at 36-53 overall, 14.5 games back in the NL East. They have two primary options: try to subtly retool for next season, moving soon-to-be free agents, or completely blow it up.
The Yankees have to be hoping that the Mets decide upon the latter option. The Yankees could use starting pitching, and that’s what the Mets have. The Mets’ mid-rotation starters, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler, have been reasonably effective and are seemingly available, but more importantly, the Mets have aces. The Mets have Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
If the Mets decide to use the nuclear option and tear things down to the studs, Brian Cashman and the Yankees would surely be knocking down their door. I wrote this past weekend about how Masahiro Tanaka’s return was crucial because it represented a chance at an elite starter, something the Yankees have “only” one of right now. Trading with a rebuilding Mets team would represent an even stronger chance of adding someone capable of dominating in an October rotation.
deGrom is obviously someone who would move the needle. He is having a career year, running a 1.79 ERA and striking over 11 batters per nine. He would make the Yankees two or three wins better down the stretch, helping in their chase for the AL East crown. Vitally, he would provide another ace, along with Luis Severino, to match up with the likes of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Chris Sale etc. in the playoffs.
Syndergaard has ace-caliber talent as well, though he doesn’t come with the reliability of deGrom. deGrom averaged 29 starts over the past three years, while Syndergaard made just seven starts last year, and has made just 11 starts in 2018 thanks to a finger strain. Still, a healthy Syndergaard would boost the Yankees’ bottom line by a couple wins and give them another flamethrower for October.
If the Mets don’t relent on their position regarding their aces, they don’t look nearly as enticing as trade partners. Wheeler and Matz could both help, certainly, but they are not the kind of elite hurlers the Yankees would be looking for in an American League arms race.
In short, there does seem to be a lot standing in the way between the Mets and the Yankees making a deal. The Mets would first have to surrender their reticence to move their most valuable pieces. They would then have to shed the stigma that comes with dealing with a crosstown rival.
That first holdup is reasonable. The Mets still have rotation talent, and some quality young position players like Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Amed Rosario to build around. If they didn’t want to blow it all up by trading a deGrom because they still felt they could contend while deGrom is with the team (he is under team control through 2020), then holding firm on their aces is a defensible position.
If the Mets put their aces on the table, however, and don’t seriously consider the Yankees’ offers because they can’t stomach to help their New York-rivals, that would be foolish. The Mets shouldn’t hamstring themselves on the trade market because of the silly notion that they can’t trade with the Yankees.
The two teams haven’t consummated a major trade since the Mets sent over Armando Benitez in 2003. They surely don’t want to be seen as giving the Yankees a crucial piece now. Yet if the Mets commit, they can’t let queasiness about what the back-page tabloids might say keep them from dealing with possibly their best trade partner. The Yankees have plenty to offer a rebuilding Mets squad. They could send talented position players like Clint Frazier, or maybe even Miguel Andujar, as well as a litany of power arms like Albert Abreu, Justus Sheffield, the list goes on.
That’s basically what it comes down to. If the Mets commit to rebuilding and move past the mental block of trading with the Yankees, these two make for strange yet perfect bedfellows. If the Mets decide to try again with this core in 2019, or just can’t deal with helping the Yankees, this is probably a dead end. The latest reporting is that the Mets aren’t considering dealing their aces, but there are still three weeks to the trade deadline, and things can change. The Yankees surely are hoping that they do.