The Mets started 11-1. The Mets are now 28-36. That’s a 17-35 stretch they’re currently in if you don’t want to bother with subtraction. Here’s a visual representation of what a stretch like that does to your playoffs odds:
Photo and graph courtesy of Fangraphs
In 50 games, their playoff odds have gone from 73% to 4.5%. Even if you‘re not proficient in playoff odds, you know that’s basically incredible.
The reasons for this slide are plenty and this isn’t a piece diving into what happened to the Mets, but one person we can definitively say isn’t the problem is Jacob deGrom. Despite the house burning down around him, deGrom is having a Cy Young season. The numbers he’s putting up are ridiculous, frankly. A 1.55 ERA, a 2.00 FIP, 3.5 WAR, and striking out 33% of the batters he‘s facing. Those are Cy Young numbers. Those are MVP numbers. He is, by every definition imaginable, an ace. A number one starter who can anchor any rotation. And the Mets should trade him.
A couple days ago, Fangraphs had a post titled Trading Jacob deGrom Would Be Foolish. You should read it. It’s good work. But I think I can make a case that isn’t so foolish why the Mets should absolutely trade deGrom.
Let’s starts with the fact that he’s a pitcher. At the moment, Jacob deGrom is 30, healthy, and elite. And because deGrom is a pitcher who is 30, healthy, and elite, his future outlook is almost certainly worse. That might sound harsh but it really isn’t. Pitchers break. Well, all players can break, but pitchers are especially volatile. Look at Clayton Kershaw. Or Yu Darvish. There’s a very real possibility, and certainly a real argument, that Jacob deGrom will never be more valuable than he is right now. And he‘s had his own injury problems.
But even if he doesn’t break, sometimes pitchers just aren’t as good as the were and it comes as quickly as it does randomly. You don’t have to look far to see an example of this. A few years ago, Matt Harvey was the guy in New York. The Dark Knight. An elite, ace starting pitcher who would lead the Mets to multiple World Series. Today, he’s an average reliever for the Reds. He lost it. There are other reason for that to be sure, but one is, pitchers sometimes just lose it. Julio Teheran use to throw 95 mph. He’s 27 now and throws 88.
Just because a guy is elite at 30, doesn’t mean he’ll be elite at 31. The Mets are terrible and they have the most volatile asset in baseball currently at it’s highest possible value, with extreme risk in the future. You have to at least explore moving him.
But the volatility of pitchers isn’t the only reason the Mets should be exploring this. Another is a simple economic principle: Supply and Demand. Take a look around at the landscape of baseball right now. Look at all the teams likely to be selling. Baltimore, Kansas City, Cincinnati, the White Sox, Miami, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Texas, Oakland. Now show me where the ace is. Where is there a healthy, legitimate number one starter among those teams? The first, and really only, name that jumps out is Chris Archer. But Archer is currently on the DL and even when healthy this year, he hasn’t been pitching like his typical self. Other than that, who? Now let’s look at the teams in contention that could use a number one starter. Atlanta, Milwaukee, the Angels, the Dodgers, the Yankees, Minnesota, Colorado and probably more. In fact, you could probably argue most good teams would be interested in improving their rotation. And a lot of mediocre to bad teams too. Everyone could use more starting pitching. Except Houston.
The simple truth is, if NY put Jacob deGrom on the trade block, they would have the only viable ace on the market and probably 20+ teams showing some level of interest. And several of those 20 showing serious interest. They could, quite literally, name their price. Teams already pay a premium for pitching at the deadline, and acquiring ace at the deadline with multiple years of team control is basically the most expensive trade in baseball. Especially when you have the only ace on the market. They could go with quantity and begin restocking a dwindling farm system or go with quality and look for an elite, superstar level prospect. The best prospects in baseball are on the table for a Jacob deGrom trade. Even if you’re on the fence about moving him, the current market and your place in it, has to factor into the decision and the Mets couldn’t ask for a better market to move deGrom.
And trading deGrom doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rebuild. Noah Syndergaard, Zach Wheeler, and Steven Matz is still a really good rotation to build on and with their payroll room next year, they could easily reload. This decision is about maximizing a 30-year-old asset that, again, probably will never have greater value. The Mets aren’t a big market team when it comes to payroll and maximizing assets has to be at the forefront of decision making to maintain competitiveness. And selling high here has to be considered.
The argument for keeping him is a sound one, and if they go that route, no one‘s going to blast them for it. But there‘s also a case to be made for moving him now and NY would be committing organizational malpractice for not at least exploring the idea.