There are a lot of free agent options that I think are compelling for where the Cubs are right now – and, yes, I can and do talk myself into getting excited about all of them – but there are few that get the wheels turning more than Noah Syndergaard.
When we talk about wanting the Cubs to go after high-upside, riskier pitchers right now – because they need the upside, and, competitively and financially, can afford to take the risk – Syndergaard is basically the perfect example. He’s coming off injury, and may be better in the years ahead for having finally gotten the arm taken care of. He’ll be just 29 for most of next season. The pure stuff and velo potential is off the charts. He’s had tremendous past big league success, but pretty clearly needs an opportunity to re-establish himself.
Syndergaard represents the perfect marriage of a realistic, very-upside swing for the Cubs this offseason. They *CAN* land a guy like Syndergaard, and he *CAN* become a huge factor in them competing in 2022 (and maybe 2023 if you could get him to take a multi-year deal).
But there’s a huge rub: the Qualifying Offer.
The problem with a guy like Syndergaard and the QO for the Cubs is that, assuming he wants to take a short-term deal, (1) he could just accept the $18.4 million QO from the Mets as a pretty perfect one-year deal to set himself up for the 2022 offseason, or (2) he would cost you a high second round pick (plus bonus pool space, plus IFA money) for just a one-year, top-of-market AAV deal. If it were a multi-year deal, the “pain” of the draft pick loss is effectively spread over multiple years. It stings less. But just one year? It’s a high non-financial price to pay on a risky play.
That’s why the hope beyond hope on Syndergaard is that the Mets *DON’T* make him a Qualifying Offer. Surveying the landscape, it sure seems like a futile hope – I suspect teams will be aggressive with QOs since the value is down, and since the uncertainty of the CBA talks makes short-term deals all the more attractive until things are settled.
But tonight, a light! A little bit of hope:
Mets face an interesting call on Noah Syndergaard with the qualifying offer. There is skepticism among agents and executives I spoke to the Mets will go the QO route ($18.4M for next year), but will instead look to sign him to a lower-cost FA deal. Sunday is the QO deadline.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) November 4, 2021
The Mets might not want Syndergaard on a one-year, $18.4 million deal. Admittedly, it does seem pretty darn high for a high-risk, one-year, pillow contract on a guy coming back from surgery. If they make the offer, Syndergaard probably would be well-advised to take it. So maybe that’s why the Mets don’t offer it?
Of course, if they don’t, then he hits the market unattached to draft pick compensation, and the competition to sign him will only go up. Getting him for, say, one year and $15 million would be a dream. Two years and $30 million? Heck yeah, do it. But I’m not sure either of those would be enough, and the Mets are playing a dangerous game if they’re planning on being able to work out those deals (deals a team like the Cubs, again, would be thrilled to make).
Anyway, here’s hoping Puma’s sources are hearing correctly, and the Mets don’t want to risk making Syndergaard such a high-AAV, one-year offer. Because that would open the door wide for the Cubs to get a chance to do it.
For reference, Syndergaard will have essentially not pitched for two and a half years by the time he takes the mound. He has missed a decent amount of time before in his career, but when he was healthy, he was stellar: