What in the heck are the Mets doing?

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In case you missed it yesterday, the New York Mets acquired starter Marcus Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays for pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson. Neat trade! But what does it mean for the Mets?

On the surface this is the sort of deal that we’ve been sort of agitating for around here for a while. The “acquire talent and try to make your team better” kind of deal. Marcus Stroman is having a wonderful year. He’s healthy, and that certainly helps a lot, but he’s also stepped things up quality-wise and currently spots the best ERA of his career and is walking fewer batters than he has in the past. Circumstances have likewise made him more valuable inasmuch as he’s a sinkerballer in a league where even your grandma could hit 22 homers and there’s a lot to be said for that.

People may scoff at a “win now” move for the Mets given that they stand 11.5 games out in the NL East and are buried beneath seven other teams in the Wild Card race. But Stroman is under team control for another year and, for whatever it’s worth, he’s a New Yorker and may very well be amenable to signing an extension to stay in the Big Apple. If you pair him up with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz you have a damn fine rotation that — along with a lineup featuring Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto — could most certainly compete in the National League East next year. Heck, you have that next year even if Stroman shows no interest in re-signing with New York before hitting the market.

Yet, that does not appear to be what’s going to happen. Multiple reports emerged last night saying that the Mets planned to focus on shipping out Syndergaard:

Syndergaard, of course, is under team control through 2021. Wheeler is in his walk year. Which means that the Mets, if they do trade Syndergaard, will have basically spun their wheels, having traded two years of control of Syndergaard for one year of control of Stroman and, most likely, will have gotten worse overall. And that’s likely the case even if they make an effort to re-sign Wheeler.

Why, then, are they doing this?

I’ve seen a lot of chatter since last night that this is some 4D chess in which the Mets acquired Stroman because he’s sought after by so many contenders, thereby giving New York two top starters — or even three if you include Wheeler — two days before the trade deadlines, thereby maximizing their power. This seems silly to me, though, because there is nothing to suggest that any other team is particularly desperate to unload a ton of talent for starting. Indeed, given that the Mets didn’t have to give up anything particularly elite to get Stroman, they may have very well reduced the value of their pitching on hand from a trade perspective. No one makes Herschel Walker-style deals in baseball anymore. The Mets are not gonna restock/reload an entire system by flipping a starter or even two.

Which leaves us back where we started: the Mets improved their team and, if they did nothing else right now, their rotation would stand a much better chance of helping them compete in 2020 than they looked to have yesterday morning. But, if the rumors are to be believed, that’s not anything they’re particularly interested in and, rather, they wanna try to play more 4D chess and shuffle off pieces in a way that seems to ensure a lot more fourth-place baseball in the coming years.

How inspiring.