NEW YORK – It’s no secret the San Diego Padres seek a front-of-the-rotation starter.
There are certainly some pitchers to be excited about, like Chris Paddack and lefty prospect MacKenzie Gore, but there is always risk in building around pitching prospects, both due to the injury concerns and the developmental process.
For a team that seems ready to take that next step, adding a premium, established starter could go a long way toward speeding up the contending process.
“Throughout the organization, we feel we have a lot of guys that have the chance to be quality big-league pitchers. We like the group we have currently and have given these guys a lot of opportunity,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday at Citi Field. “You always look to see if you can add impact starting pitching, and even if we look up in a year or two and have a ton of home-grown guys that are major league starters, you’re always going to look for another major league starter that could pitch at the front of the rotation.”
The Mets (46-55) are also willing to deal Syndergaard, and the Padres (48-53) seem like a natural fit due to their loaded farm system.
Is Noah Syndergaard still an ace?
Whether Syndergaard is still an ace is debatable – he owns a 4.33 ERA this year after allowing four runs in seven innings in a 7-2 loss to the Padres on Wednesday – but there’s no denying he has some of the best stuff in MLB.
A 2020 pairing of Syndergaard with Paddack, and Gore possibly joining them, would immediately raise the Padres’ stock and make them legitimate contenders.
It’s a match that could happen now but more likely in the offseason, and seems a more logical trade possibility than Syndergaard ending up in the Bronx.
“Haven't really had much of a discussion with the front office as far as the future of me being a Met,” Syndergaard said. “As of right now, I'm more than happy where I'm at right now. I look forward to continuing to put on this jersey.”
The Padres and Mets have become linked as natural trade partners in the same way the Mets and Chicago Cubs were often associated earlier in this decade.
The Mets had young pitching prospects, and the Cubs were overflowing with position players. A Syndergaard for Addison Russell deal once made sense.
The Mets are not actively seeking to move Syndergaard, who is under control through 2020, but it’s clear they’re willing to send “Thor” elsewhere.
The organization has entertained offers for Syndergaard for more than a year now, and, naturally, there is lots of interest across the league, according to sources.
Syndergaard, who turns 27 in August, has landed on the injured list in three straight years, and he has not been as dominant as he used to be.
He owns a 3.62 ERA over his last two seasons, compared to a 2.89 ERA spanning the first three seasons of his career.
Even as Syndergaard’s ERA has ballooned, teams still see a young, controllable starter who could flourish within their structure.
Syndergaard’s struggles this year and in part due to him having no feel for his slider, although he’s regained confidence in the pitch lately.
“Lately, his slider is back, he has confidence in it and throwing it where he wants to, he’s executing with it and you can see that air about him on the mound again where he feels like Thor again,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said before the game. “It’s fun to watch when he’s going good and a lot of his struggles have been based on the inconsistency with his slider and his confidence in it.”
On Wednesday, against a Padres team he could possibly be pitching for in the future, Syndergaard produced an outing that mirrored his season due to its inconsistency.
He dominated at times, striking out eight, but put his team in a 4-1 hole in the third by allowing three runs. Syndergaard failed to put away hitters at times, and yielded hits while walking five batters to drop to 7-5.
The results have not matched his stuff this season.
“That’s just been the problem all year is execution,” Syndergaard said. “I'm trying to win every pitch and, I don't know, it's just been a battle for me.”
Where would Syndergaard slot in San Diego’s rotation?
Even if he’s no longer an ace, Syndergaard would still slot in as the No. 1 or No. 2 in this Padres rotation, which entered the night ranked 16th in the league in ERA.
Aside from Paddack – and to some extent Quantrill, a 2016 first-round pick – the young Friars have not stood out.
Some of that can be attributed to their inexperience, which is natural, but it’s tough for teams to be perennial contenders without proven rotation commodities.
“[It’s] better than any point in time since I’ve been here, being honest. It’s heading in that direction,” Padres manager Andy Green said Tuesday regarding his rotation. “We’re excited about the group of guys we have here because we probably have eight, nine guys we’re comfortable starting MLB games with.”
He added: “We’re going to get there whether we get that top of the rotation guy or not. We have a lot of guys we believe in.”
The beauty of having a loaded farm system is the Padres could trade a few of those starters to acquire a pitcher like Syndergaard, and still have plenty of studs left.
The Mets and Padres finding common ground also seems like a natural fit since a deal would benefit both sides. The Mets have plenty of holes to fill this offseason, and acquiring prospects with upside could be the best way to do so.
Syndergaard’s salary is also set to raise in his second year of arbitration. He is under team control through the 2021 season.
A trade may make more sense for the Padres in the winter, and by that point, the Padres will have a better understanding of which of their young players are keepers, and those who are expendable and can help transform this roster.
“At this time of year, there’s always speculation,” Preller said of the trade rumors. “Sometimes there’s truth to it, sometimes there isn’t. You’re aware of it in that it gives you a sense potentially of what other people may be seeing or reading. We know we have a pretty good feel of what we have in house and what we’re willing to do to add to our club. See how the next couple of week goes.”
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