Reds finish mailing it in, get swept by Pirates

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It’s not that the Reds had nothing to play for this weekend; winning two out of three against the Pirates would have ensured that Tuesday’s rematch in the wild card game would be at home. Instead, they’ll travel to Pittsburgh for Tuesday’s rematch and elimination game after getting swept in the series.

Right from the get-go on Friday, it hardly seemed as though the Reds’ hearts were in it. They lost that one 4-1 when A.J. Burnett threw four more pitches in eight innings than Homer Bailey did in five (99-95). Saturday’s game saw the Pirates hit six homers. The Reds hit one in the entire series. On Sunday, the regulars mostly started for the third straight day, yet all were pulled after two at-bats in the 4-2 loss. The two runs were actually delivered by third-string catcher Corky Miller.

Now the Reds are going to be expected to suddenly turn it on again Tuesday after five straight losses in which they scored a total of eight runs. It will have been eight days since their previous win. As little as momentum seems to matter in baseball, it makes it difficult to get excited about the Reds’ chances. Besides Shin-Soo Choo and maybe Todd Frazier, no regular is swinging the bat very well. In the matchup of Johnny Cueto vs. Francisco Liriano, there figures to be quite a bit more weight on Cueto’s shoulders at the onset.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.