NEW YORK — The man with the insanely California hair has officially been introduced as the newest Californian.
Noah Syndergaard, who spent the first seven years of his big league career with the Mets, held his first press conference as a member of the Angels on Friday. The Angels signed the right-handed pitcher to a one-year, $21 million contract, roughly three million more than he would have received via the Mets’ qualifying offer. Syndergaard said he wasn’t in communication with the Mets very much, which he understood given everything about the team. For the entire period when Syndergaard was fielding offers, the Mets did not have a general manager or a field manager.
“I didn’t really hear from them all that much in the last two months,” Syndergaard said over Zoom. “I understand that they had a lot on their plate, they had to find a GM. ... This is kind of a make or break time for me. I didn’t want to gamble on that kind of uncertainty that was going on with them.”
Asked if he got the sense that the Mets didn’t want him back, Thor again pointed to the other things going on in Mets land.
“I never got that sort of vibe from them at all. I just knew they had a lot on their plate,” Syndergaard said of his former home. “It was just time for a change in scenery. For the last two years I felt like I was stuck in limbo, stuck in a rut. This is one year to get back to where I used to be.”
Syndergaard has pitched all of two MLB innings since the 2019 season ended. He had Tommy John surgery in March 2020 and did not pitch at all during that calendar year. In 2021, he made five rehab appearances in the Mets’ minor league system, interrupted by elbow inflammation which set him back. Like his flowing blonde hair, Syndergaard says that’s all behind him now.
“Right now I’m 100 percent, no limitations,” he beamed. “Rehab is officially over so it’s time to get down to business.”
Despite having the two best players in the game, the Angels have not made the playoffs for a while. They’ve missed the postseason each year of Shohei Ohtani’s four-year career, and last made it in 2014. That is still the only time Mike Trout has been in the playoffs, and the Angels were swept in the ALDS. That has not diminished Syndergaard’s opinion of the franchise, which also has a murky history of keeping pitchers healthy. He called Anaheim a “good place for me to have a brand new fresh start and get back to my old self.”
“When you think of the Angels you think of the booming offense,” Syndergaard said. “Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon, Jared Walsh. One of their missing pieces was starting pitching. I think the Angels have a shot at making a huge run at this.” Syndergaard also revealed that the Angels were the first team to call him.
One interesting element of this experiment is the Angels’ usage of a six-man rotation. What started as a way to protect Ohtani’s arm will now also be a way to protect Syndergaard’s. With one more spot in the rotation comes more rest, which was a major selling point for a guy with Syndergaard’s recent medical history.
“I think it’s going to be a perfect fit, not pitching for the last two years and coming off serious surgery,” Syndergaard granted. “I think the six-man rotation is definitely going to keep me healthy.”
Part of his immediate plans are finding a place to live in Orange County — he mentioned Newport Beach specifically — and getting his breaking balls back to a point where they feel “crisp.” Syndergaard was advised not to throw breaking balls last year as he got his arm back up to snuff. He also raved about the sunshine that he’ll soon get to soak up, as well as the knowledge he hopes to glean from Ohtani, whom he reveres as the “most exciting player in the game.” Syndergaard, who whacked six home runs as a Met, did say he’ll leave the two-way player stuff to his new teammate.
While it’s mostly first-day chatter, Syndergaard showed palpable excitement about his new employer. Angels’ general manager Perry Minasian impressed Syndergaard with his pitching knowledge at a recruiting dinner, apparently breaking down flaws in the pitcher’s mechanics in a way that Syndergaard had never heard from an executive. Syndergaard also said he’s worked out in the same gym as Steve Cishek for years. Cishek has been in the major leagues for parts of 12 seasons (though only one with the Angels) and told Syndergaard that his time in Anaheim was the most fun he’s ever had playing baseball.
“My message to Angels fans is that I’m extremely grateful for them welcoming me to their home and their city,” Syndergaard declared. “I hope I can bring a ring back to you guys.”
For a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since before the Mets’ last World Series appearance, that’s going to be a tall order.