A true roll of the dice
There are other potential free agent starters that fit the “upside with injury risk” label, but I want to conclude things with an old friend of the Blue Jays in Noah Syndergaard.
If you’re a relatively new fan of the team and aren’t familiar with his name, start by learning how to pronounce and/or spell it. After that, mention it around a group of lifelong Blue Jays and you’re bound to see someone’s head explode. That’s because the Blue Jays traded Syndergaard to the Mets in a package that brought back R.A. Dickey ahead of the 2013 season, and the blockbuster didn’t exactly work out as planned. It was nowhere near as bad as many Jays fans seem to remember it, but Syndergaard did turn out to be a tremendous MLB pitcher.
The problem for the fireballer has always been whether or not he can stay on the mound long enough to capitalize on his special right arm. Like Verlander, Syndergaard was injured a while back and missed all of the 2020 season. We did see him make a brief return to the mound this fall, but that was only for two innings.
Still, there’s enough history of success and remaining upside that the Mets have reportedly given Syndergaard the Qualifying Offer as well. I mention him last among this group because I think he’s the least likely to be available, and that’s saying a lot when you look at the other names I’ve talked about. However, with both Kershaw and Rodon not receiving the QO, and Verlander near the end of his career at 39 years old, Syndergaard strikes me as the least likely to be available for bidding. In fact, if I were the agent for the 29 year old, I’d likely advise him to accept and focus on rebuilding value ahead of this winter when he could become a free agent again under better circumstances.
However, if Syndergaard decides to reject, it’s possible that the Blue Jays could have some level of interest. They can afford to gamble a little bit knowing that they have Berrios, Manoah, and hopefully a rejuvenated Ryu already in place, but I doubt they’re going to spend more than the QO rate to do it. If Syndergaard does reject the Mets’ offer, I’m sure he’ll be looking for more than 18.4 million, unless he’s just wanting to get out of New York in general.
As I mentioned earlier, my ultimate preference is still for the Blue Jays to retain Robbie Ray on a new multi-year deal. If that doesn’t work out, this year’s market has a lot of intriguing names among the starting pitching group. If Ross Atkins and company are willing to gamble a little bit, they might even find a jackpot.