This article is part of our Farm Futures series.
The spiciest dish on the Hot Stove is the rumor that the Mets might deal Noah Syndergaard to the Padres. It is easy to see why. San Diego has the best farm system in baseball, so that's fun, and Syndergaard is the best player who might get traded this winter -- that's always fun.
What makes this rumor so fascinating from my perspective is that the Padres have so many variations of trade packages that would add up to a fair haul for an ace who is under team control for three more seasons, and likely has his best years still ahead of him.
I am all for a team with that collection of young assets cashing some out in exchange for a dominant pitcher entering his prime. On Twitter I suggested the Padres trade MacKenzie Gore, Chris Paddack, Michel Baez and one of Franmil Reyes or Franchy Cordero in exchange for Syndergaard.
Some responses I got from Padres fans:
"That's a crazy overpay"
"Seems like a big overpay"
"That's certainly not happening"
"Thor is not Sale. He's fun because he throws hard but come on"
"That's a ridiculous offer and no chance the Pads would do it"
"That's a laughable return"
Not every fan thought it was crazy, but there was at least a vocal minority that had a big problem with what I was suggesting. They seem to agree with me about cashing out some chips, they would just prefer it to be headlined by a spare piece (Austin Hedges or Francisco Mejia) and a collection of players they are ready to move on from (Joey Lucchesi, Jacob Nix, Dinelson Lamet). Sorry, but that's not how this is going to work.
The Non-Existent Gerrit Cole Corollary
I'm sure the Padres have cited the Gerrit Cole trade in these talks. Their fans sure have. But that trade already looks like a complete disaster for Pittsburgh, so why would any rational person use it as an example of what a Syndergaard trade should look like? Throw in the fact that Syndergaard is perceived as a better pitcher than Cole was at the time of that trade, and the fact Syndergaard is under team control for one more year than Cole was, and the comparison completely falls apart. Simply put, just because the Pirates made a horrible trade does not mean the Mets should follow suit.
The Chris Sale Corollary
Obviously Syndergaard has not been as durable to date as Chris Sale had been when he was traded to Boston before the 2017 season, but he has been at least as good on a per-inning basis. As The Athletic's Eno Sarris pointed out when we were politely arguing with Padres fans on Twitter, Syndergaard leads all qualified MLB pitchers with a 2.42 FIP since the start of the 2016 season. Sale ranks second on that list at 2.71. So Sale is more durable, but not better, and he was traded for Yoan Moncada (consensus No. 2 prospect in baseball at the time), Michael Kopech (consensus top-40 prospect at the time), Luis Alexander Basabe (a noteworthy prospect, but never a top-100 guy) and Victor Diaz (a low-level relief prospect). Just because Syndergaard has not logged 200 innings in a season does not mean he won't hit that mark in his age-26 season and in future campaigns, but we still need to ding him for his lack of durability in these fake trade proposals.
Reasonable Trade Packages
Hot Take Alert: I would trade Fernando Tatis Jr. for Syndergaard straight up in a vacuum. However, I would not do it in this specific case because the Padres' championship window does not realistically open in 2019, and a lot would have to go right for it to open in 2020. But if a team like the Dodgers or Brewers had Tatis, I would trade him for Syndergaard.
I did not mention this on Twitter because I knew it would be a bloodbath of replies calling for my head (you can leave those in the comments section on this article). However, consider that Tatis is the consensus No. 2 real-life prospect in baseball (I disagree with this ranking, but that is what it is), which is exactly what Moncada was considered when he was traded along with another big-time prospect and couple lesser ones for Sale. Tatis even has the same main flaw that Moncada had when he was a prospect -- too many strikeouts.
If Tatis is not involved, at least two of the Padres' top-five pitching prospects (Gore, Paddack, Adrian Morejon, Logan Allen, Luis Patino) need to headline the package. The secondary pieces of the deal would obviously depend on which of the top-five pitching prospects were included. Luis Urias is a great prospect, but the Mets don't really need another second baseman with Andres Gimenez coming and Jeff McNeil keeping his spot warm. Let's say my original Twitter proposal was a tad too steep. Maybe it's Gore + Morejon + Hedges. Maybe it's Gore + Paddack + Cordero. Maybe it's Paddack + Morejon + Patino. Maybe it's Allen + Patino + Hedges + Xavier Edwards. There are a lot of different ways to come up with something semi-reasonable -- that's the nice thing about having the best farm system in baseball. Unfortunately for that vocal minority of Padres fans, any realistic trade is going sting quite a bit. That's the way it works, unless you are dealing with the Pirates.