Mets turn the tables, trade for Toronto starter Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman will be a Met.

Yes, that’s right.

And, now, the baseball world waits to see what the New York Mets do in the next four days to properly gauge what exactly the Mets’ plan is for the rest of 2019, and 2020.

In a stunning move, the Mets, owners of a 50-55 record, acquired Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson. The Mets are also receiving cash considerations.

“Obviously [they’re] going for it,” one source said.

As rumors have swirled surrounding the Mets possibly selling, and Stroman moving to a contender, the Mets, six back in the wild-card race, decided to buy and keep Stroman from going to a playoff-bound team, such as the New York Yankees or Atlanta Braves.

Judged by itself, this move is another example of Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen attempting to win now.

Jul 24, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) reacts while walking off the field in the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Pitcher Marcus Stroman was traded Sunday to the New York Mets. (USA TODAY Sports)

Van Wagenen has shown he’s willing to mortgage the future for the present, trading stud prospect Jarred Kelenic and fellow top-100 prospect Justin Dunn to the Seattle Mariners this past offseason to land Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, who have underperformed.

Van Wagenen has now traded away 12 prospects since being hired in October.

Adding Stroman, who is under control through next year, makes the Mets better in 2019, and should help in 2020 due to the uncertainty surrounding their rotation.

Zack Wheeler and Jason Vargas both can become free agents after the year, and those two, along with Noah Syndergaard, could be traded in the next few days.

The Mets added a middle-to-front-of-the-rotation starter for around $10 million or more. Stroman owns a 2.96 ERA spanning 21 starts this year.

“Marcus is a dynamic talent who will bring tremendous passion to our team and energy our fans will truly appreciate,” Van Wagenen said in a statement. “As a Long Island native, we believe that Marcus will thrive playing in New York.”

One red flag for Stroman and the Mets has to be that he is a ground-ball pitcher, and the Mets employ one of the worst defenses in the majors. Wheeler, who also induces grounders, has been burned repeatedly this year by shoddy defense.

While it would be ill advised for the Mets to believe they are contenders since they own just a 9.6 percent chance at making the playoffs according to Fangraphs, Stroman will help keep the rotation afloat if more trades are coming.

“No idea what their agenda is,” another source said.

The long-term concern with this deal is it continues a troubling trend in which the Mets are willing to trade away young prospects at a time when most of the industry is holding onto young players. They also are not reaping the benefits of these win-now trades with their fourth-place standing in the NL East.

It’s one thing to go all-in and deplete a farm system if a team can win, like the Boston Red Sox did last year. It’s another to gut the system, and be an also-ran like the Mets will likely be this year. Teams eventually have to pay the bill for those decisions.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 20:  General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon of the New York Mets, talk on the field during batting practice moments after Van Wagenen held a press conference before an MLB baseball game against the Washington Nationals on May 20, 2019 at Citi Field in the Queens borough of New York City. Mets won 5-3. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 20: General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen (left) has now traded away 12 prospects since being hired in October. (Getty Images)

Kelenic is already one of MLB’s elite prospects, and Dunn and Kay are both ready to soon step into rotations. While Woods-Richardson is young, scouts rave about his potential due to his fastball, which has touched 100 mph. The Mets have now traded their top two picks from last year in Kelenic and Woods-Richardson.

The Mets are also giving up two prospects for one-plus seasons of Stroman, although they will have an honest chance at the playoffs in one of those seasons.

“Confused why [the Mets] did it,” one league source said of the trade. “But I don’t think they gave up a lot.”

The next few days should make it clear how exactly the Mets plan to operate since they still have movable assets in Syndergaard and Wheeler.

Moving Wheeler would net a prospect in return, although likely not as established as Kay or with as much upside as Woods-Richardson since Wheeler is a rental.

Deals for rental players usually don’t net a team what it would receive for trading a player with multiple years of control, like Stroman.

A deal involving Syndergaard could net the Mets a huge haul, but there is skepticism of whether the Mets will actually pull that trigger.

Moving Syndergaard while acquiring Stroman would allow the Mets to acquire talented prospects, and possibly some who are more touted than those they traded, and perhaps fill a hole or two at the major league level.

However, Syndergaard has more upside than Stroman, and has outperformed him in the past, although not this season.

The San Diego Padres are one of many teams interested in Syndergaard, and one source indicated the Mets’ asking price has yet to be met in talks.

The Mets are also open to moving Diaz, although a source from a team that had inquired about Diaz downplayed a possible trade due to the Mets’ asking price.

Having those assets gives the Mets flexibility, but it remains to be seen what exactly the Mets’ long-term plan is other than saying they want to win now and in the future. They’re certainly hampering their chances in the future by continuously trading away their top prospects, and have yet to win in the present.

Van Wagenen showed the world yet again he can be as bold and aggressive as they come, and he has four more days to work.

Once the dust settles, the full picture should be clear, including how and why the Mets believe that acquiring Stroman makes sense for a team not in contention.

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