When a team trades a star for a prospect, typically it takes longer than this to realize if the team that dealt the prospect made a mistake. Only three full seasons have passed since the trade that sent R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays and Noah Syndergaard to the Mets, yet it’s already clear the Mets have won. Projecting the future for the players involved only makes it more lopsided in favor of New York. The deal is Exhibit A in the case for Mets GM Sandy Alderson as one of the best dealers in baseball.
In December 2012, Alderson traded Dickey, the reigning Cy Young winner, and two back-up catchers, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas, to Toronto for minor leaguers Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra, and catcher John Buck. Respected baseball analysts are wondering if Syndergaard would be the first pitcher chosen in a hypothetical draft of today’s players and d’Arnaud is in his third season as the Mets’ starting catcher. He hit 12 homers in 67 games last season.
Becerra, a 21-year-old outfielder, is the team’s eighth-ranked prospect. Buck got off to a nice start in 2013 and Alderson traded him, along with Marlon Byrd, for two prospects, including Dilson Herrera, who appears to be the team’s second baseman of the future. In Toronto, Dickey has been good but not great, Thole is a back-up, and Nickeas is out of baseball. That, my friends, is a fleecing.
At last year’s trade deadline, Alderson dealt two pitching prospects, Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa, for Detroit’s free-agent-to-be Yoenis Cespedes, who propelled the Mets to the World Series. Fulmer is Detroit’s top prospect and No. 51 in all of baseball. Cessa was traded to the Yankees and debuted earlier this season before being sent back down to the minors. The young pitchers’ futures will determine how this trade is assessed, but there was no better player Alderson could have acquired than Cespedes (last year or possibly ever).
Mets’ fans first inkling that Alderson knew what he was doing was at the 2011 deadline, when he traded Carlos Beltran, in the final months of his contract, to San Francisco for pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. Like Syndergaard, Wheeler was a former first-round draft pick. He showed a lot of promise when he debuted in 2013, and built on that in 2014. Tommy John surgery cost him all of last season; he’s expected to return this summer. To acquire a prospect on Wheeler’s level for a rental player is very impressive.
Most recently, Alderson traded pitcher Jon Niese to Pittsburgh for Neil Walker. There was no room for Niese in the Mets’ crowded pitching rotation, and they needed a replacement for departing free agent Daniel Murphy at second base. While many Mets fans hated to see Murphy leave, Walker projects to provide similar production. They’re the same age with the same amount of MLB experience (though Murphy, entering this season, had 200 more plate appearances). The numbers entering this season:
A key difference, of course, is that the Mets are paying Walker $10 million this season. Murphy signed for $37 million over three years.
The Mets’ drafting and free agent signings under Alderson have been a mixed bag. Michael Conforto, a first-round pick in 2014, looks like a star, but it’s too early to judge most of the other selections. Signing Cespedes was the right move, but Michael Cuddyer flopped last season. When it comes to trades, however, there’s no debate: Alderson has been a wizard.