After acquiring Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano last week in a seven-player blockbuster, an aggressive and potentially reckless move designed to thrust his New York Mets back into contention, newly hired general manager Brodie Van Wagenen plainly stated that more moves are coming.
"We did not make this move to be our last move," he told reporters.
Makes sense. The Mets will need more help if they're to realistically vie for first place in the increasingly competitive National League East. Clearly, Brodie is a reasonable man.
He also might be insane.
That's because, despite making it clear he won't fill one hole on his roster by creating another, Van Wagenen has reportedly discussed a three-way trade with the Miami Marlins and New York Yankees in which he'd send right-hander Noah Syndergaard to the Bronx for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post, who later referred to the Mets' new baseball ops head as "Cowboy Brodie." (Presumably, the Marlins would receive an abundance of prospect capital or perhaps a young big-leaguer like Miguel Andujar from the Yankees for their prized catcher.)
In fairness, Van Wagenen actually deserves some credit for entertaining a deal like this. It shows he's not averse, at least, to doing business with his intracity rival, a hilariously myopic policy that felled too many of his predecessors in Queens. It further demonstrates his willingness to get "creative," too (though being creative isn't necessarily better than being shrewd). And, to be sure, Van Wagenen has privileged intel that's informing his approach here.
Having said that, so long as Syndergaard's elbow ligaments aren't literally being held together with scotch tape right now, this move just doesn't make much sense for the Mets. In terms of on-field value in 2019, it's essentially a lateral move, and one that plainly contravenes Van Wagenen's whole "don't fill a hole by creating another" maxim.
Syndergaard, after all, put up 4.2 WAR last year despite making just 25 starts, as the hard-throwing 26-year-old required multiple trips to the disabled list due to a sprained finger ligament and a subsequent bout of hand, foot, and mouth disease. Meanwhile, Realmuto - who somehow survived the Marlins' shameless purge last winter - accrued 4.8 WAR, tops among catchers, thanks to a career year at the plate in which he set new highwater marks in OPS (.825), wRC+ (126), and home runs (21).
And that negligible difference between the two in 2018 isn't an anomaly, either. Since Syndergaard debuted with the Mets in 2015, he's been worth 15 WAR; over that same span, Realmuto has been worth 14.2 (and receives no bump, according to Baseball Prospectus, from his pitch-framing, which doesn't factor into FanGraphs' version of WAR.) The two, if healthy, would have more or less the same impact on the Mets' win total in 2019.
Syndergaard, though, has more years of control remaining, as he won't hit free agency until after the 2021 campaign. Realmuto will be a free agent after 2020. Syndergaard is also projected to earn slightly less than Realmuto this season - $5.9 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors, or $200,000 less than Realmuto - and could, therefore, free up a bit more cash to spend elsewhere. And, ultimately, the dropoff in talent from Syndergaard to Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo or Chris Flexen might well be as great as that between Realmuto and the Mets' incumbent catching tandem of Kevin Plawecki and, potentially, Travis d'Arnaud, who's working his way back from Tommy John surgery.
Besides, the Mets have viable avenues to improve behind the plate that don't include getting rid of a dude who lost some zip on his fastball last year and still threw harder than every other starter in the majors (not including Ryne Stanek, the Tampa Bay Rays' most trusted "opener.") They saved money in the Cano deal, after all, by unloading Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak, and can use those savings to help finance a deal for Yasmani Grandal, or a more cost-effective option like Wilson Ramos. Both ranked among the top five in WAR among catchers last year. Grandal is widely regarded as one of the game's preeminent pitch-framers, too, and Ramos led his position in wRC+ (min. 400 plate appearances) in 2018. Ultimately, the Mets are much better off with Syndergaard and one of those two than Realmuto and whoever.
Syndergaard, after all, is a legitimate Cy Young contender, if healthy, and while Van Wagenen promised not to shy away from these kinds of Galaxy Brain machinations when he was named the Mets' new GM earlier this winter, he should pump the brakes on this one.
Jonah Birenbaum is theScore's senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter @birenball.