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The Yankees-Mets “Rivalry” Should Not Get in the Way of Business

When the rumors first became public that the New York Yankees and New York Mets had trade discussions that involved pitcher Noah Syndergaard, the outrage on Twitter was quite amusing to witness. I have always thought it wouldn’t make much sense to trade Syndergaard after the Mets declared themselves a win-now team, although the Yankees have some enticing assets that would be of interest to the Mets. Andy Martino of SNY reported that the Yankees have interest in other Mets’ starters as well, but in a broader sense, this isn’t about any specific player or trade. Clubs have an obligation to maximize their value in any transaction that they make. 

As someone who has lived in New York my entire life, I have never come to grips with the “rivalry” these teams supposedly have. Is there a big brother little brother effect in the city? Of course. The Yankees have the 27 championships with unlimited resources to sign and trade for whomever they want. Nevertheless, under Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees have adopted a more disciplined approach where that isn’t really the case. Then on the other side, Mets fans urge ownership to spend more money, but with most of the contracts they give out, the player underperforms or is injured.

To say that new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has been active would be an understatement. He made the move to acquire Robinson Cano, a player coming off an 80-game suspension with five years and $120 million remaining on his contract and a no-trade clause. Creativity so far has been Van Wagenen’s strength, using Cano to acquire 2018 saves leader Edwin Diaz, and now he continues to be innovative by engaging with the Yankees to use some of their young players as a more attractive return in a trade with the Miami Marlins. The Mets knew they were going to get bold, outside-the-box thinking from Van Wagenen, for which he should be applauded.

The teams did make a trade earlier this year, with the Mets shipping L.J. Mazzilli to the Yankees for Kendall Coleman. The ripple effects were definitely felt on that move. However, it has been fifteen years since a big name was traded between the two teams, when the Yankees acquired Armando Benitez as a mid-season acquisition.

Obviously the Mets and Yankees don’t have written policies not to trade with one another, but there’s still that mentality that it’s not worth trading players across town due to the scrutiny. That’s why, regardless of what you might think of the specific idea of trading Syndergaard, it’s refreshing to see. They simply wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they refused to consider trades just because of geography.

In 2017, the Chicago White Sox traded pitcher Jose Quintana to the Chicago Cubs for four prospects, including Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease. The White Sox were in a full rebuild at the time, while the Cubs got an All-Star pitcher who was going to be a crucial piece in their attempt to win back-to-back World Series titles.

Fast forward, and Jimenez and Cease are currently ranked as the third- and 25th-best prospects in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. Jimenez hit .355 with a .996 OPS in 55 games at Triple-A Charlotte, and he should be a candidate to start on Opening Day. Cease is still in Double-A, but he impressed as well, posting a 1.72 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 52 innings.

Despite Quintana having a strong track record and a contract too good to resist, he has been inconsistent since he arrived on the North Side. He can be relied on to make 30+ starts a year, but he became a victim of the long ball, allowing a career high 25 home runs.

It was a risk worth taking for Cubs GM Theo Epstein because Quintana was the best pitcher available, and White Sox GM Rick Hahn now has a prospect who has one of the best projected futures in baseball. Player development isn’t linear, so clubs need to focus on who they scout as targets that promote the most upside in any trade.

The teams in the division are much more of a threat to what you’re trying to accomplish. The same should be said for the Angels and Dodgers. Crosstown rivals only play each other a few games per year, so they’re not doing a high level of damage against one another anyway.

If the Mets did decide to trade Syndergaard — which appears to be cooling off — Miguel Andujar‘s name would come up, and rightfully so. Andujar was an American League Rookie of the Year finalist and has already conquered hitting at the big-league level. Defense is still a question mark, but he has proven that he belongs. So why should the stigma of keeping him in town outweigh the benefits.

It’s not absurd to think that the rivalry in New York is overblown, except that’s how everything is in this city. It’s fine to enjoy the matchups and bragging rights, even though most moves involve measuring risk and reward. It’s time for the Yankees and Mets to keep that at the forefront going forward.

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