Assessing Mets Marcus Stroman Trade
Before going into the weeds on the cost, it should first be noted the Mets are a much better team for getting Marcus Stroman. This is a pitcher who has pitched quite well in the AL East, and he is a pitcher with big game experience being named the World Baseball Classic MVP in addition to some really good postseason performances.
Stroman grew up a Mets fan, and as a result, the Mets are getting a player who should become a fan favorite in short order. Assuming no other moves for a moment, the Mets rotation is very clearly the best in baseball, and you can argue acquiring Stroman makes their chances of making the postseason this year significantly better.
The one ding people will bring up with Stroman is he’s reliant upon a good infield defense to be successful, and the Mets defense has not been good this year. On that note, the Blue Jays have been a below average defensive team this year with a -6 DRS with them having a -4 DRS at first, -9 DRS at second, 1 DRS at third, and a 0 DRS at shortstop. With the Mets having Todd Frazier at third and Amed Rosario playing a to positive DRS in the second half, they fair well in comparison to the Blue Jays. Eliminate the turf, and you can argue this is actually a better situation for Stroman to be even better.
Now, if the Mets were in the position the Braves were in, you understand this trade. Stroman is the piece which arguably puts the Mets over the top. When you roll out Jacob deGrom–Noah Syndergaard–Marcus Stroman–Zack Wheeler–Steven Matz in your rotation, you’re dangerous in both the regular season and post season. As for the bullpen issues, with that collection of five guys, the Mets could take a page out of Alex Cora‘s book last postseason and utilize their starters to dominate the entire series.
Stroman would be an overpay, but it would be one along the lines of the Cubs trading Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman. If you win the World Series, who cares? In some ways, Stroman is even better than that because he is under control for next year as well. This not only gives you the best rotation in baseball right now, but it puts you in a position where you’ve insulated your team from losing Wheeler in the offseason.
The problem with the Mets is they’re five games under .500, and they are six games out of the division and the Wild Card. They are in real striking distance, but they also have many obstacles in their way.
The Mets have three teams ahead of them in the division, and they have four teams ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. The team just lost Dominic Smith which somehow depletes an already suspect outfield depth even further, and it also stands in the way of the Mets finding some more games for Pete Alonso, who is really struggling so far in the second half.
Speaking of depth, the Mets already suspect starting pitching depth did take a hit. On the one hand, yes, assuming no other moves, acquiring Stroman exponentially improves the depth as he’s a significant upgrade over Jason Vargas, who should now find himself in the bullpen. On that note, the bullpen also looks better. However, that assumes no other moves.
At the moment, it seems the Mets are looking to move Noah Syndergaard in a companion move to help fill out the current roster. Of note, the team still desperately needs a center fielder. It should be noted with the current rumors, Manuel Margot isn’t that guy. He’s yet to be a league average hitter in his career, and he’s a -1 DRS this year in center. On that front, it should be noted he was really good prior to this year with an 8 DRS in 2017 and a 9 DRS in 2018.
If the Mets move Syndergaard, they are again relying on Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt to be their starting pitching depth this year and the next. Aside from one Lockett start this year, that is misplaced faith. This means the Mets need David Peterson to step up instead of hoping one of him or Anthony Kay are ready.
Like with trading Justin Dunn to the Mariners, trading Kay hurt the depth, and it deprived the organization of real starting pitching upside. It also eliminated the possibility of taking either pitcher to send them out there and try to replicate with Seth Lugo or to a lesser extent Robert Gsellman are doing.
Being fair, in the end a package headlined by Kay was a fair return for Stroman. It did make sense to gamble Kay away for the year plus of Stroman, especially if you are really going to go for it as an organization. On that note, they did not do that after trading Jarred Kelenic and Dunn in the trade for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano. On the Cano point, the Mets are up against the luxury tax next year, and they seem to be already using it as an excuse not to add despite the team collecting tens of millions of dollars in insurance proceeds on David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes while also deferring $12 million of deGrom’s contract.
From a Mets standpoint, the part of the deal which really hurts is Simeon Woods Richardson. This is an 18 year old pitcher already pitching for a full season affiliate. He is getting his fastball up to 97 MPH with a promising and developing curve and change which could both be plus pitches. Despite being almost four years younger than the competition, he is striking out 11.1 batters per nine while having an incredible 5.71 K/BB. This is a special arm, and the Mets traded him away with a top 100 prospect for one plus year of Stroman.
On the Woods Richardson front, the Mets were beyond loaded with teenage talent heading into this year. In addition to him, the Mets had Kelenic, Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos, Francisco Alvarez, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and others along with a pitcher like Thomas Szapucki. This was a group poised to break into the majors around 2022, and when they came up, the Mets could have really had a prolonged World Series window open.
With Brodie Van Wagenen as the General Manager, that is what he has been trading away. He has severely hampered the next window from opening. Of course, that assumes the Mets window is currently open. This is a big reason why many baseball people don’t understand this trade. This seems one of those moments like when they pulled off the Cano deal or Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano the Mets are trying to tell us they are smarter then everyone when they’re really not.
Ultimately, you may not like this trade, but you would have certainly understood it if the Mets were 10 games over .500. They’re not. This trade becomes all the more puzzling when you consider they are supposedly doing this as a precursor to trading Syndergaard. Really, when looking at the entire plan right now, none of this makes sense. It makes even less sense if you are trading Syndergaard for prospects because the Mets just obtained one plus year of Stroman and not five.
Overall, this was an overpay for Stroman, and depending on what the Mets do now, it could be a completely unforced error. Typically in these moments, you like to sit and wait before passing judgment on the total plan, but considering how Van Wagenen has lost every trade he’s made thus far, there shouldn’t be much hope this was the first strike in what is one grand master plan.
In essence, enjoy Stroman while he’s a Met. He’s a fun player and really good pitcher who is coming home to pitch for the team he rooted for when he was growing up. Also, root for another hometown kid in Kay and hope Woods Richardson fulfills his potential. Root for everyone to succeed because it helps the Mets in the short term, and it will also help in the long run to remind the Mets that they’re really not better at this than everyone else. They have been and will continue to be considerably worse until Jeff Wilpon realizes he’s the problem.