By Ernie Palladino
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It seems the Mets are always having this same argument over their young pitchers.
Whether it’s Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler, the question of when to bring these kids up from the minors hovers over the franchise’s head.
Now it involves Noah Syndergaard, yet another flamethrower in the Mets’ farm arsenal. He went out there in his first real workout of the spring and threw 97 along with, according to Terry Collins, a curveball from the netherworld. Only the manager used earthier phraseology than this family-oriented blog.
Obviously, the Mets are banking on Syndergaard becoming a functional part of the rotation right away. Or are they?
True to Mets form, they’ve all but decided the right-hander will start in Triple-A as a contractual matter to delay arbitration and the onset of his free agency by a year.
It’s basically the same reason Wheeler wasn’t here last year until June, and why the electric Harvey was brought up late in 2012.
On the surface, this is not a huge problem for an organization to deal with. Actually, it’s kind of a nice headache. How many franchises can boast the quantity of rocket-launcher arms the Mets have marched through their minor league system? The Yankees can’t, that’s for sure. So kudos to the scouting staff for finding and securing some genuine pitching talent.
Once scratched, though, that attractive veneer clouds quickly. Dollars and cents always seem to take priority over wins and losses, and there is where a lot of the Mets’ problems lie. Is sending Syndergaard back down really the baseball-prudent move? Will postponing arbitration and free agency of their third potential ace in three years really give them two legs up on the rest of the league financially?
Probably not. If Syndergaard is really that good and that ready, the Mets will have to pay him lots and lots of money at some point, anyway. They’ll have to do the same for Harvey and Wheeler, assuming the former comes back strong from Tommy John surgery in 2015 and a solution to Wheeler’s control issues turns him into an efficient, deep-innings starter.
Still, finances always control the Mets. So Collins, obviously more excited over the prospects of seeing Syndergaard develop than gambling that soon to be 41-year-old warhorse Bartolo Colon has a year left in him, will be left waiting for the money clock to expire.
If the kid is that good, that could mean more losses than wins in April and May. As they say, playoff spots are not determined in the first two months of the season, but they surely can be lost. If Syndergaard proves that good in spring training, it might be worth sacrificing those extra dollars to get him started in the big leagues. Especially if that equates to a meaningful September.
Put it this way, the Mets need all the help they can find. Harvey, bless his heart, has finally and reluctantly chalked up 2014 as a lost season. He’s out. Colon is a crap shoot, regardless of the 18-6 mark he put up in Oakland last year.
Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and Wheeler should make for a solid back end of the rotation. It would be nice to throw Syndergaard at the tail end of it, get his feet wet, and see if he, like Harvey and Wheeler before him, has the goods to help bring the franchise back to respectability.
Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons, Fred and Jeff, can’t allow dollars and cents to get in the way if that’s the real goal. They have to say “The heck with arbitration. We’ll drive over that overpass when we get to it.”
If they really want to win this year, bringing up a young talent like Syndergaard from the get-go would represent a major step, providing the kid shows he’s ready.
If it isn’t, well, then both Syndergaard and Collins, a manager who so dearly wants his players to achieve, will wait.
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