How injuries to Noah Syndergaard and Luis Severino impact the trade market for Mets and Yankees

On Tuesday, the New York Mets announced that right-hander Noah Syndergaard will require Tommy John surgery, assuring he will miss the 2020 season (whatever that ends up entailing). Syndergaard is the second prominent New York-based starter to be lost for the year this spring, joining Yankees right-hander Luis Severino, whose fate was sealed in February. If there is to be a 2020 season, those absences combined will have a major impact on the trade market. 

Beyond the major team-level ramifications — contending Mets and Yankees squads could be in the market for a new starter — there are some more nuanced, individual developments to consider. Three pitchers in particular may have already had their fates altered. Let’s break them down below.

An obvious starting point, perhaps, but Syndergaard was one of the biggest names floated on the market last July. Although a divorce appeared imminent at the time, the Mets did not shop him (or any of their pitchers) aggressively this winter, a league source told CBS Sports. Rather, the Mets pursued deals for veteran infielder Jed Lowrie, among others, that failed to materialize. 

A scenario in which the Mets struggled and Syndergaard flourished has been lost to another reality, but it stands to reason general manager Brodie Van Wagenen may have revisited those dormant conversations. Keep in mind, Syndergaard will qualify for free agency after the 2021 season, and he is coming off a disappointing season that saw him post a career-worst 95 ERA+.

Syndergaard would have been an intriguing deadline candidate regardless of his performance. Look no further than Zack Wheeler for evidence that teams will pay for potential, and that they believe they can extract more production from Mets pitchers. Syndergaard’s operation, however, ties the Mets’ hands. If Van Wagenen is to trade his former client, it won’t be until July of 2021. 

As noted above, the Mets were not proactive in shopping their pitchers over the winter. Instead, the Mets opted to add to their pitching staff by signing veteran starters Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Those additions may have pushed Steven Matz to the bullpen, or even to another team, as his name surfaced on the rumor mill after Severino’s injury. 

With Syndergaard out for the season, Matz is significantly more likely to stay in place. 

Matz doesn’t offer teams an All-Star track record like Syndergaard’s, or even the same front-of-the-rotation promise as Wheeler, but he provides some value. For as easy as it is to get lost in the cons of his game — he’s prone to home runs and shorter-than-desired outings — he has accumulated 60 starts over the last two seasons while maintaining a league-average ERA+. 

Matz isn’t the kind of pitcher any team should break the bank or drain their farm system to acquire. He is a fine back-end type who will make the 2020 Mets better than they would have been had they dealt him to clear additional budget room.

We’ll end with J.A. Happ, whose contract made him a trade candidate after the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to front a rotation that at the time featured a healthy Severino and James Paxton. 

The thinking then was that Brian Cashman would move Happ’s money ($17 million guaranteed in 2020) to get the Yankees underneath the luxury-tax line. When no market developed, the Yankees opted to keep everyone. Their projected luxury tax number is now past the steepest penalty threshold, at more than $50 million above the line, according to Cot’s Contracts.

Once expendable, Happ now seems like an important piece of the Yankees rotation, which will have to make do without Severino, potentially Paxton (depending on when the season starts), and definitely Domingo German, who will have to serve out his suspension for violating the domestic violence policy. Things can change, of course. Jordan Montgomery could prove to be hearty and hale; Jonathan Loaisiga and other young arms could turn out to be quick learners; and so on. 

Until those scenarios unfold, the lingering question with Happ is not if he’ll be traded, but if his (presumably modified) $17 million option for the 2021 season will vest. It was originally set to do so at either 165 innings or 27 starts.

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