Monday, April 10, 2017

It's Not Talked About Enough That The Blue Jays Traded Noah Syndergaard For RA Dickey

Along with Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale, Noah Syndergaard has officially become one of my three favorite starters to watch pitch. Yesterday evening on Sunday Night Baseball Thor was his usual dominant self, going seven innings while giving up one earned run, fives hits, and striking out nine. What makes Syndergaard so appealing to watch is the fact that he has three plus pitches that can all be thrown for strikes during any count of an at bat. Syndergaard combines a 98mph fastball, which was the fastest average velocity among starters last year, with a slider that breaks away from righties and a change up that tails away from lefties. This makes it so difficult to hit the ball hard off him and is a major reason why he surrendered a league low 0.5 home runs per nine innings in 2016.

Over the past calendar year Syndergaard has properly been talked about as one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. What hasn't gotten talked about enough (outside of New York and Toronto) is how the Mets acquired their best player. The majority of their rotation is home grown so I think most people assume they drafted Syndergaard. However, he was actually part of the seven player trade that sent reigning NL Cy Young award winner RA Dickey to the Blue Jays following the 2012 season. 

Even at the time of the deal it was a puzzling move for Toronto. They were trying to take advantage of the Yankees and Red Sox being vulnerable in the AL East but trading for Dickey at the height of his value when regression seemed inevitable was odd. Yes he gave them a better chance to win that year and yes during his Toronto tenure he ate up a lot of innings but the Blue Jays parted with two great prospects in Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud (who was actually considered the better of the two at the time). d'Arnaud has been a frustrating player for Mets fan at times, mostly due to injuries, but when healthy he has certainly been a serviceable player. 

Back to Syndergaard. He was was the 38th overall pick by Toronto in the 2010 draft. By the time he made his major league debut in 2015 he had risen to 11th on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list. His promotion to the Mets that season was a major reason why the team advanced all the way to the World Series. At just 22 years old that year he struck out 10 batters per nine innings with a 3.24 ERA. In 2016 he took another step forward by lowering his ERA to 2.60 and raising his K/9 to 10.7 en route to finishing eighth in the Cy Young voting.

He entered 2017 looking like a great bet to establish himself as a consensus top three pitcher in baseball (and possibly capture his first Cy Young award). Through two starts he has pitched 13 innings with a 16/0 strikeout to walk ratio and has allowed just one earned run. If you're the type of fan that also needs an ace to succeed in the playoffs well then Thor checks that box too. In 26 postseason innings the 24-year-old has 36 strikeouts and a 2.42 ERA. In last year's NL Wild Card game he went toe to toe with Madison Bumgarner and ended the night with seven shutout innings, 10 strikeouts, and just two hits allowed.

Ultimately Toronto still has fellow young arms in Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, and they've made the playoffs in each of the past two years - but on some level it has to hurt knowing they traded away the best of the three and were on the wrong end of potentially one of the most lopsided baseball trades of the decade.

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