deGrom For Judge — Would You Do It?

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It’s trade deadline time! The Manny Machado swap got those deal juices flowing. In addition to my relief that Manny’s not going to the Yankees, I was happy to see him join the Dodgers and somewhat even out the balance of power chasm between the Senior and Junior Circuits. More on that in a minute.

I was in New York City this week, and found it amusing that with the Yankees on track for 106 wins, their fans are nonetheless quite uncomfortable.  Of course that didn’t deter them from jumping on us Mets fans at every opportunity (yeah, let’s hear “my condolences” one more time when I’m introduced as a Mets fan, yup it’s as funny as the first time I heard it, yup). I digress.

Most of the Yankees fans’ discomfort comes from their need for a starting pitcher, and of course despite being absolutely awful, that’s an asset the Mets possess in abundance. Inevitably the baseball conversation would turn to the Mets unwillingness to trade one of their two aces, Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, across town.

Forget for a minute that we Mets fans have zero confidence in the current Three Tenors setup in the General Manager’s office that is charged with  making baseball decisions for the balance of our season. Most of us would simply like to see Jake and Noah stay in Mets blue and orange for a few more years. Then we can pray to the heavens that there’s a present-day version of Frank Cashen out there somewhere we can hire as GM this winter who can begin to surround their golden arms with some talent.

So for fun, and because I wanted to gauge just how deep runs the level of desperation in Bombers Fans, I would throw out the following question, “Okay, if we offered deGrom to you even up for Aaron Judge, would you do it?”

I posed this question at least five different times, in different settings, to legit, knowledgeable Yankees fans, and the response was pretty much identical every time.

Start with a long pause. Follow that with a look of consternation consistent with someone dealing with intense inner turmoil, or maybe bad gas.  A protracted look down at the shoes, then up to the sky (maybe God has the correct answer), a sideways glance at a buddy, who’s also looking at his shoes at this point, followed by a guttural, desperate “Nooooo.” Followed by extended exhale.

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This is reason number one why I’m so relieved that Machado didn’t land in the Bronx. It seems prior to that Dodgers trade being consummated, that most Yankees fans were rooting for Machado to join the pinstripes because that way, if no starting pitcher were to arrive at the deadline, they could still bludgeon their way to a World Series title. After all, they’d have literally rolled out the 2018 version of Murders Row every night if Machado was playing third and hitting cleanup. Not so fast.

With Machado in Dodger blue, it means that the Yanks everyday lineup is what it is for the balance of the 2018 campaign (not that any Mets fan wouldn’t kill to have this problem to worry about, but that doesn’t mean that Yankees fans aren’t still shifting uncomfortably in their seats as the deadline approaches). So with Manny a National Leaguer, now the need for a starting pitcher in the Bronx is greater than ever.

Faced with alternatives like the suddenly line drive prone J.A. Happ and the ancient Cole Hamels (who I’m pretty sure won a World Series in the Dead Ball Era with the Phils), it explains the worried expression on the faces of Bombers fans as their deficit to the Sawx grows to 4 1/2 games (or more, since as I type this the Mets just won game 1 of this latest reincarnation of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium).

So why not hit them while they are mired in this dilemma? Just give us Judge and you can have your starter.  Not just any starter, but Jacob deGrom, maybe the majors’ best in class thus far in 2018. “Nooo,” the response rises from deep in their belly, but they want to say yes. You can feel it. They really do.

Which, of course, is why I couldn’t just leave it at deGrom for Judge. This is about as much fun as a Mets fan can have these days (short of a sweep in the Bronx this weekend, that is).

“Okay, so you won’t give up Judge,” I’d acknowledge, “how about Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird for deGrom?” No hesitation here — not once — “Yup, I’d do that deal,” said every Yankees fan I queried.

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The general consensus was that Sanchez’s future is as a DH, he’s out of shape and even though he can hit and has a rifle for an arm, they could get by with Austin Romine and Higashioka handling the catching duties the rest of the way.  There was even less hesitation about including Bird in the deal, as his recent injury history and slow start in 2018 has relegated him to persona non grata among Bombers fans.

The consistency of their affirmative responses along with their haste and certainty, led me to believe that I hadn’t asked for enough, so I threw out there “What if you had to throw in Clint Frazier? Would you still do the deal?” Only a slight hesitation accompanied the idea of parting with one of their most prized minor league assets, and just like that the answer was “yes,” again, every time.

I’ve arrived at several conclusions out of these dialogues that helped distract me from the Mets having more losses before the All Star break than at any other time in their history:

  1. Yankees fans are right to hold onto Judge.  He could be another icon along the lines of Derek Jeter (God forbid), and you just can’t give him up for a 30-year-old pitcher who’s already had Tommy John surgery once. Even a starter as awesome as deGrom has been this year.
  2. They are also right not to care about Clint Frazier. You put him in a Mets uniform and he’ll contract whatever skill-draining disease that has afflicted Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce this year. My guess is that as a Met, Frazier would one day have lifetime statistics that look similar to those of Ron Swoboda (meaning a middling fourth outfielder that never reached his potential, even if he did make an incredible catch in the 1969 World Series).
  3. Yankees fans are lucky to have Brian Cashman making their deals, as a good GM is worth his weight in gold (for examples of bad GM’s, see Mets, New York), and he will figure this out for them before the deadline and the Yanks will be just fine (doesn’t mean I won’t still be rooting my heart out for them to finish second in the east and then get no-hit in the Wild Card game by Sean Manaea and the A’s).
  4. An added “oh by the way” is that I hope the Mets owners have forbade the Three Tenors masquerading as Mets General Manager these days from even speaking to Cashman, let alone attempting to make a deal with him.  Talk about a mismatch! It makes me nervous just thinking about the spare parts Cashman will sell back to us for the starting pitcher he covets.
  5. Bird as a Yankee may still end up with career stats that resemble Will Clark’s, but if he were to move to Queens and put on a Mets uniform he’d immediately snap his achilles tendon slipping in the shower and then break both wrists trying to cushion his fall. We don’t want him either.

Now back to Machado for a minute. I don’t care for the Dodgers.  It’s not a Yankees-intensity type of dislike, but I really don’t like them much, except under certain circumstances (like if they played the Yanks in the World Series). But I am declaring them the National League’s only chance of winning the World Series this year.

The American League is flat out loaded. I can make a strong case for any among the Astros, Red Sox, Yankees or Indians (nice deal picking up Brad Hand, Tribe!) being crowned champs come October. Prior to the Machado deal, when I looked around the National League I saw no one capable of even competing with any of those four AL powerhouses.

The Expos may not even finish .500 (yes, they are such under achievers right now that I won’t even honor them by calling them the Nationals). The Cubs seem like they should be so much better, but there are holes everywhere I look. The starting rotation after Jon Lester (who’s almost as old as Cole Hamels at this point, isn’t he?) is paper thin, the pen scares the heck out of me (and now Morrow is DL’d), and nearly two years after the fact they seem like they are still trying to sleep off the hangover of the 1908 Curse-breaking title they won back in ’16.

Does anyone really think the Braves or Phillies are legitimate World Series contenders? Puh-leazzzzze. Diamondbacks or Brewers? Next. The Giants? I still see them finishing with 70-something wins, and I’m not even including the Rockies in this conversation, because, well, they’re the Rockies.

That leaves the Dodgers (and another quick aside — who is this Max Muncy kid? The A’s really had him and gave him up??). If Kershaw is healthy (yeah, a pretty big if) and Jansen is right, they have the cornerstone pieces in place with that every day lineup to trade punches with the big boys of the AL in a seven game series. They probably need to make one more deal for a starter (doesn’t everyone except the Astros?), but inserting Manny Machado in the middle of that lineup was a true game changer for L.A. Bring on October baseball.

We’ve got 11 days to go before the deadline passes, so we will learn a lot about haves and have-nots during this time. And it should be a lot of fun, too, as the wide open NL and top-heavy AL almost demands that no fewer than 10 teams will need to make a significant move or otherwise risk disappointing their fans and deflating their clubhouse. Desperation leads to lots of deals, and lots of deals make for an intriguing end of the summer.

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Which is why the Three Tenors should move Stephen Matz and Zack Wheeler and feed into the desperation. That same desperation I saw in the eyes of those Yankees fans this week.  If only we could trust the competency of Ricco/Minaya/Ricciardi (yikes, did I really just type “Minaya”?).

But of course, we’re the Mets, and we won’t get it right. We all know it. So we’ll probably get Clint Frazier in return for Matz and Wheeler, and those nasty concussions the young redhead has suffered this spring will turn into a prolonged problem exacerbated by the incompetent Mets medical staff. Meanwhile Matz and Wheeler will likely each win a World Series game in pinstripes (and Matz will probably even jack a homer in the NL park).

And that’s all okay, because Machado’s a Dodger. And the Yanks won’t get deGrom. All good news coming out of the break. So now — Let’s Make A Deal — it’s Deadline Time!

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