Baseball fans everywhere have been plagued by wishful thinking. “If Chris Sale can stay healthy, everything will come together.” “If Giancarlo Stanton can be Giancarlo Stanton, look out.” “Things will turn around in Chicago now that Tony La Russa is gone” (that last one just took a wild turn, huh). The latest purveyor of false hope appears to be Noah Syndergaard.
All of those presently-beleaguered individuals above enjoyed a nice run at the top. The veteran starting pitcher, who was designated for assignment by the Cleveland Guardians on Sunday, suffered injuries and never fully evolved into the undeniable superstar New York Mets fans had prophesied years ago.
With this latest fresh start going awry (5.40 ERA in six starts with Cleveland), Syndergaard now finds himself at a crossroads for the second time in a month. Is there any hope for a turnaround? What we believe on the matter is not really relevant. The question is, does the MLB still have faith in Thor?
Circumstance, injuries and desperation are all working in his favor as we approach the final month of the regular season. Syndergaard is no where close to being an intriguing postseason X-factor right now, but he still holds some value during this home stretch.
That's right, we're prepared to go down this windy and foreboding road one more time. Because, in actuality, this venture is not that risky at all for a select group of franchises. Here are the four best destinations for Noah Syndergaard now that the Guardians have DFA'd him.
Noah Syndergaard pre-Tommy John Surgery was one of the best young pitchers in baseball. His numbers before undergoing TJ:
His stuff was ELECTRIC! pic.twitter.com/Y41qG6RxCC
— MLB Deadline News (@MLBDeadlineNews) August 28, 2023
4. Baltimore Orioles
One can easily make the claim that if 62-69 Cleveland can't find room for you with all its pitching injuries, then there is really no where else to go. Syndergaard doesn't have to be confined to rock bottom for long, though. All it takes for him to generate intrigue on the waiver wire or free agent market is opportunity and a role change. With managers racking their brains on how to preserve their pitching staffs, a late-season innings eater is extremely valuable.
Enter Syndergaard. The Baltimore Orioles (81-49) own the American League's best record and are sprinting toward their first postseason berth since 2016. Although the Tampa Bay Rays are only two games behind them, the O's primary concern should be preventing a bullpen burnout.
The veteran right-hander can make the move to reliever or be a spot starter, so that manager Brandon Hyde has a fresh arsenal of arms in October. The need for someone like Syndergaard arises even more with lights-out closer Felix Bautista on the shelf with a concerning UCL injury. These are not desperate times in Camden Yards, but they are crucial. The franchise has legitimate World Series aspirations and cannot afford any more pitching injuries.
This potential union should be a win-win for all involved. Syndergaard has the privilege of being on a title contender despite his struggles, and Baltimore gets to throw out a former All-Star in a fill-in and depth role.
3. Tampa Bay Rays are nice landing spot for Noah Syndergaard
Much of what was just argued for the Orioles can be applied to the Rays, but to an even greater extent. Although Tropicana Field is well renowned for being an assembly line for quality pitchers, it is constantly afflicted with injury troubles. Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs are all done for the rest of the year with Shane Baz likely to join them. This club could just use a warm body.
Fans might dispute that type of roster nonchalance when considering that Tampa is fighting for a first-round bye in the playoffs. They're perfectly justified in doing so, but taking a flier on an undesirable talent and reviving his career just feels too on the nose for this organization. If Noah Syndergaard is ever going to reclaim his ace-caliber status, then it would probably be with the Rays.
They don't need him to be a star now, though. The 30-year-old can ease some of the staff's workload and possibly give some productive innings. Syndergaard did throw solid starts against both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays in the last month, so there is upside here.
Best case scenario is that he impresses and earns his way onto the postseason roster. Worst case? He continues to struggle and is relegated to mop-up duty for the remainder of the year. Such a low-risk, high-reward situation could be tough for the Rays to pass up.
The Rays starting rotation has suffered some major injuries this year. pic.twitter.com/3RYsYdSQjv
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 8, 2023
Believe it or not, Syndergaard's appeal can go beyond just rotation or bullpen depth. Depending on the team, that is. The Reds have been the quintessential “enjoy it while it lasts” story of the 2023 MLB campaign. Youth and insufficient pitching have had most fans waiting for a drop-off. While there has not been a precipitous decline in the standings, Cincinnati is faltering a bit.
After losing three of four games in a big road series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Reds are one-and-a-half games out of a playoff position. Those odds do not necessarily foretell a terminal fate, especially with the schedule due to soften at the end of the season. But seven upcoming games versus the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs, two clubs they need to jump, is going to take all the ammunition Cincy has stored up.
That all-hands-on-deck mentality could leave David Bell with plenty of exhausted pitchers on the other side of this grueling stretch. The cavalry has not arrived as expediently or effectively as fans hoped. Hunter Greene's first two starts back from a lengthy IL stint have been disastrous and there are ballooning ERAs all over the staff. With a negative WAR and 6.50 ERA in 18 starts, Syndergaard would obviously belong in that category as well. No one comes with his proven track record, though.
Banking on the past is unwise for many teams, but the Reds are desperate enough to take this gamble. They are trying to survive their inexperience long enough to deliver the city a proper playoff celebration. Another veteran presence could be the stabilizing force this franchise needs to make that happen.
1. Miami Marlins are the best destination for Noah Syndergaard
While the Reds' postseason chances are taking a slight turn for the worse, the Marlins' are clinging to life. Although a three-game deficit in the National League Wild Card race can be made up in the next 31 games, the signs are not pointing that way. After months of battling key injuries to the pitching staff, Miami (66-65, three games back) appears to be running out of gas.
2023 Noah Syndergaard is not a coveted source of fuel, but he is the best available one. He was serviceable last year and actually posted a solid 3.24 ERA in the 2022 playoffs. If he can somehow inch closer back to that competent form, then the former blue-chip prospect's big-game experience is going to come in handy.
And why can't that happen? Under the right circumstances and utilization, Syndergaard can end the worst year of his career on a high note. The Marlins might need a superhero-like September performance to lift them into October, but a rapidly-declining Thor is the best they can get right now.
Who knows, maybe his hammer has been stuck in the NL East all along. A move to South Beach could be a welcome boost for a slumping franchise and the unlikely antidote for an ailing career.