Stay or Go: Should Mets bring Noah Syndergaard back for 2022 MLB season?

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Noah Syndergaard treated image, pitching front side in blue jersey with out-of-focus crowd background
Noah Syndergaard treated image, pitching front side in blue jersey with out-of-focus crowd background

Before the 2021 season started, the Mets' hope was that Noah Syndergaard would return from Tommy John surgery in June and be part of a lethal top of the rotation with Jacob deGrom.

Beyond deGrom and Syndergaard would be Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker, with the Mets forming a vaunted rotation that helped carry them to the playoffs.

What actually happened involved the Mets' worst nightmare coming true.

DeGrom, who was on pace for one of the most dominant pitching seasons in the history of baseball, wound up making his last start of the year on July 7, missing the remainder of the season due to an elbow injury that there still isn't total clarity on.

Syndergaard had an elbow issue while on his initial rehab assignment and didn't make it back to the Mets until Sept. 28.

Walker faded after a first half that earned him an All-Star nod, perhaps due in part to the huge innings increase he had.

Carrasco, who suffered a hamstring injury in spring training, didn't make his Mets debut until July 30. And he struggled mightily for the two months he did pitch.

The only pitcher who was on the mound and successful for the Mets all season was Stroman, who -- along with Syndergaard -- is a free agent.

New York Mets injured starting pitchers Jacob deGrom (left) and Noah Syndergaard walk in from the bullpen before a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.
New York Mets injured starting pitchers Jacob deGrom (left) and Noah Syndergaard walk in from the bullpen before a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.

The above is why the Mets figuring out their starting rotation situation should be at the top of their priority list this offseason.

The rotation hinges on deGrom, but it will also be impacted in a big way by whether or not Syndergaard and/or Stroman are retained.

And the question surrounding Syndergaard encapsulates the whole rotation situation perfectly -- he is a question mark who could turn into an exclamation point.

WHY IT COULD MAKE SENSE FOR SYNDERGAARD TO GO

Like deGrom, it's unknown what Syndergaard will be in 2022 and beyond.

And Syndergaard, who missed the entirety of the shortened 2020 season and almost all of the 2021 season while recovering from TJS, didn't even feature his full arsenal when he returned.

After receiving advice from doctors, Syndergaard said he planned to not throw his slider or curve in 2021, instead featuring only his fastball (the two-seamer and four-seamer) and changeup.

Sep 28, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) takes the mound for the first time in over two years during the first inning of game two of a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.
Sep 28, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) takes the mound for the first time in over two years during the first inning of game two of a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.

The results from Syndergaard in 2021 -- he was perfect in his first appearance and not so perfect in his second and last -- are largely irrelevant.

What mattered most is that he made it back, but that he only relied on his fastball (which sat around 95 mph) and changeup (which was around 88 mph) makes projecting how he might look in 2022 more difficult.

But not every pitcher returning from TJS arrives back on the mound like a bull in a china shop, as Matt Harvey did in 2015 when his stuff was just as electric as it had been in 2013.

Beyond the question surrounding Syndergaard's stuff is just how many innings his arm might have in it in 2022.

It's hard to see him going from zero innings in 2020 to 2.0 innings (plus the innings he threw during his rehab assignments) in 2021 to being set for 180-plus innings in 2022. But it would also be unfair to expect that.

WHY IT COULD MAKE SENSE FOR SYNDERGAARD TO STAY

If Syndergaard is healthy -- and there's really no reason to think he won't be after making it back this season and having a full offseason to recover before ramping it back up -- he could be a difference-maker at the top of the Mets' rotation.

From his rookie season in 2015 through 2019, Syndergaard was one of the best pitchers in baseball, with a 3.31 ERA (2.92 FIP) and 1.16 WHIP to go along with 775 strikeouts (9.7 per 9) in 716 innings.

Oct 30, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning in game three of the World Series at Citi Field.
Oct 30, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning in game three of the World Series at Citi Field.

His dominance included keeping the ball in the yard (0.8 HR/9) and limiting free passes (2.1 BB/9).

Even if it takes Syndergaard a bit longer to get going and recover his stuff, he is a former ace-level workhorse entering his age-29 season.

Syndergaard also wants to be a Met, as he explained multiple times during the last few months. There is something to be said for players who truly want to be here and who embrace the fans and the New York market.

In addition to Syndergaard wanting to be a Met, he has also done it as a Met. And he's done it in the most high-pressure situations, with a tremendous overall playoff performance during New York's run to the World Series in 2015 and a stellar start against the San Francisco Giants in the 2016 Wild Card Game.

Postseason experience and/or experience in a certain market can be something that is overblown, but in the case of the Mets and New York, it matters. Just ask Carlos Beltran, Francisco Lindor, or a number of other players who struggled initially with the adjustment.

VERDICT

The Mets need to bring Syndergaard back. It's as simple as that.

Whether it's on the one-year qualifying offer or whether Syndergaard is kept in the fold with a short-term deal that is a good compromise for both sides, he has to be part of the Mets' rotation in 2022.