A healthy Noah Syndergaard may get back to the dominance he flashed as a young starting pitcher, but it won’t be with the Mets. The right-hander agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, joining a team that is long on star power but short on pitching.
Syndergaard, 29, will give the Angels the pitcher with the highest upside in this year’s free agent class, but one who also comes with a great deal of risk. While the commitment is for only one year, Los Angeles paid a steep price, guaranteeing the hard-throwing Syndergaard $21 million and sacrificing a compensatory draft pick to the Mets, who had extended a qualifying offer that would have paid Syndergaard $18.4 million.
The deal with the Angels, which was first reported by ESPN and MLB Network on Monday, was announced by the Angels on Tuesday after the completion of a physical.
Syndergaard joins a team that has two of the best players in baseball in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. After a fourth straight fourth-place finish in the American League West, Los Angeles is operating under something of an ultimatum because Ohtani, the two-way superstar, has intimated that the team needed to start winning to make him happy ahead of his free agency in 2024.
Los Angeles has invested heavily in offense over recent years, with huge commitments to Trout and third baseman Anthony Rendon, but the team’s pitching has been patchwork at best. Ohtani, who went 9-2 with a 3.18 E.R.A. (in addition to hitting 46 home runs), was the team’s most effective starter and the only pitcher on the roster to surpass 100 innings in 2021.
At his best, Syndergaard could be the ace the team has lacked. He has a 3.32 E.R.A. over six seasons and has averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. As a rookie in 2015, he was pitching in the World Series. In 2016, he was an All-Star. But things have been far rockier since.
Having bulked up considerably after the 2016 season, he made only seven starts in 2017 because of a torn right latissimus muscle. And after uneven efforts in 2018 and 2019, he missed all of 2020 because of Tommy John surgery and made only two token appearances in the final week of the 2021 season because of inflammation in his pitching elbow.
While the Mets showed faith in Syndergaard by extending the qualifying offer, they did not appear to want to add further risk in terms of salary or years, allowing the pitcher they acquired from Toronto in 2012 as part of the R.A. Dickey trade to leave in return for only a draft pick, which will be around 70th overall.
Showing an ability to laugh at himself, Syndergaard responded to a tweet by Jon Heyman of MLB Network, who had questioned whether Syndergaard was worth the risk of the qualifying offer, by sharing video of a scene from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in which Larry David says, “Thanks for sharing that story.”