On Starting The Zack Wheeler Clock Early

Earlier, my friend Dan Stack made some great points regarding the promotion of pitching phenom Zack Wheeler sooner, rather than later. Your intrepid columnist can’t help but agree. Of course there’s no guarantee that Wheeler will match the near-perfect Matt Harvey in either technique or temperament – the way Harvey’s been dealing, it’s barely possible to consider that – but there is talent there. If scouts, prospect handicappers — like Toby Hyde and John Sickles — and Sandy Alderson are to be believed, Wheeler has the stuff to be a star in the major leagues. Heck, Alderson thought so much of Zack Wheeler’s potential, he deemed Carlos Beltran a reasonable price.

Slowly, steadily, Wheeler has climbed the ladder of the Mets’ organization. At each stop, he encountered a rocky beginning as he dealt with a combination of growing pains and a getting-comfortable-in-the-league period. Even this year, when he’s supposed to be crashing the gates in Flushing, he made many in the offices and bleachers nervous, showing bouts of inconsistency and eminent hittability in the dry Las Vegas air. The walk totals piled up – the ol’ bugaboo, “command of the fastball” was the absent element – but so did the strikeout totals. That was the thing that observers could hang their hats on. Wheeler has definitely demonstrated a knack for making hitters swing and miss. In his past two starts, however, he seems to have put it together – high strikeouts, low walks, few hits, scant runs allowed. In the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, this qualifies as good news.

Is he ready for the big time? If his most recent starts are to be believed, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Are the Mets ready for him? From a competitive standpoint, absolutely. As Dan pointed out in his piece, Jeremy Hefner, Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee have not been up to snuff. This is not to say they’ve been horrible, far from it. Hefner has been betrayed by shoddy defense and the general offensive doldrums the Mets are experiencing right now. Marcum is still trying to build up stamina after a stop-start kind of training camp. Gee has had inconsistent command – there’s that word again – coming off last season’s major health issue. The addition of Wheeler would certainly give the back end of the rotation a jolt and strengthen the bullpen at the same time: Hefner is a more natural relief pitcher, currently miscast as a starter. From a PR view, the timing would be excellent. Wheeler coming in would lend some credibility to what looks like an already-lost season: a glimpse of good times ahead, if you will. It might put a few extra backsides into those shiny Citi Field seats when he pitches, a consideration not lost on Fred and Jeff Wilpon. Besides, it’s May.

Which brings us to what may the biggest sticking point to the whole proposition: is this ownership willing and capable to start Zack Wheeler’s arbitration clock early and have him achieve the dreaded “Super Two” status? Can the Wilpons absorb the hit that will surely come with Wheeler’s arbitration eligibility? They must already be dreading the day that Harvey submits his contract request two years from now. As with everything Mets, it all comes down to the shaky nature of the Wilponian finances again.


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12 comments for “On Starting The Zack Wheeler Clock Early

  1. Za
    May 9, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Give him another start. If he dominates like he has in his last two, call him up. If we need to absorb the hit in payroll resulting from Super 2, so be it. I’m totally in favor of delaying a player’s call-up to ensure an extra year of control; we have that. Now the conversation is how stingy we’re going to be. If Wheeler pitches well, he deserves the call-up – he’s our most talented guy at AAA and we could definitely use the help. Those 3 or 4 additional starts might be the kick this team needs to have a respectable season and get people in the seats.

  2. May 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Screw the Wilpons. If they can’t pay good players — if that’s the big fear around here, that some kid is going to come up and win games — they shouldn’t own a team. They might discover that winning with stars actually helps the financial picture. The TV revenue stream is gigantic. Look at the ratings jump when Harvey pitches. Let’s go for it. Let’s bring back some fans, especially this lost generation of fans that knows only abject misery.

    Of course he is ready, of course it is time. The freak injury in spring training set back his clock a bit, that’s all. Let him pitch to Buck, locker next to Harvey, be coached by the best in the organization, and so on. Move Hefner to the pen, where we desperately need a long man.

    As a fan, I’d LOVE to get the message that this organization is trying to win games right now. I am sick to death of the “why bother, we suck anyway” mentality.

    • Metsense
      May 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      James, you are right, the Wilpon’s shouldn’t own the team.
      Last year, when the Mets were still in the hunt, Batista started instead of Harvey. We shouldn’t expect anything different.
      Last winter the Mets did not resign their best OF for 2.5M a year and didn’t improve the OF in any way.
      The Mets bought out the Bay contract, restructured the Wright contract and didn’t put the money into the team.
      You are right that if Wheeler is ready he should be brought up but based on the last 3 years finances, I would prefer they wait for Super 2 to pass. It is obvious that under the present ownership, the saved money is needed.

      • Chris F
        May 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm

        I think just about every Mets fan would trade the Wilpons for about any owner outside of McCourt and Loria. But that aint gonna happen. I dont pity the wilpon’s financial woes, but lets be clear, Madoff screwed a lot of people, none of which was their own making. In recent years, they have shelled out huge contracts, mostly busts, that took the team pretty much nowhere. I understand the “reset”, a different path, even if it was external pressure that forced it. Im not defending them. I detest the Wilpons, but part of the money issue was not their choice. I just think bringing him up should only be when he’s ready on baseball grounds.

  3. Chris F
    May 9, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    I think part of the problem is financial. As an organization, it is folly to spend excess money if it is not a good investment. Similarly, the present baseball operations of the team in Flushing are no reason to bring someone in. The Marlins will pay dearly for the Fernandez decision, who while electric, may be pay a serious price for not being brought up and stretched out properly for MLB play. The situation is simple, Wheeler should come up when Wally calls NY and says he’s ready. The last I read says its almost, but not yet, time:
    “Outstanding — the best he’s pitched all year,” Backman told the New York Post on Monday. “He’s turning the corner, that is what we have seen the last two starts. If we see that a couple of more starts, he’s going to be pushing the door open himself, forcing the issue for sure.”

    I say let that decision come from Wally, TC, and Alderson. Wheeler is going to come up to the bigs knowing that Harvey is the ace, even though thats all he has heard for a couple years (sure there’s Harvey, but Wheeler is the REAL star). He’s also going to come up with a ton of fan expectations. Hes pitched 69 AAA innings, while Harvey had 110. Would a half dozen more AAA starts hurt Wheeler? What happens if he gets shelled, which isnt entirely out of the bounds of possibility? He had a bad start in LV, why not let him go through to the paces to completely right the ship and get it back running smoothly? I realize there is a need to get him up, and Im as excited as anyone, but only when he’s ready based on what the coaches say. If its out him close to clearing Super 2, then hold him down for a week or two. That makes good business sense.

    • Jerry Grote
      May 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      Here’s my problem with bringing up ZW:

      If you were to take out Harvey from the Mets starting pitching, our line is something like 117 IP and 185 baserunners allowed … not to mention 14 of those baserunners spent about 15 seconds rounding the basepaths. On top of that, the Mets starting pitching is barely getting out of the 5th inning on average.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not much for TC but the guy is so dead on when it comes to the problems of the team. Their starting pitching is destroying whatever they might have had from the bullpen. Bringing ZW into the mix might give you 5 or 6 innings of some help … but face it, the guy is going to have pitch count issues. He’s going to potentially actually increase the wear and tear on the bullpen.

      No. The Mets need to get Marcum, Gee, and Hefner to do their goddamned jobs (not to mention the supposed “ace”). The time to bring up ZW is when you *don’t absolutely need him*.

      • Chris F
        May 9, 2013 at 3:37 pm

        Im glad you mentioned Niese there Jerry Grote. His numbers aren’t that much to be thrilled about for sure. He’s gotten a pass so far, but a K/BB of 1, WHIP of 1.66, and 4.66 ERA isnt screaming front end starter. He better get this turned around or we are headed for 100 L this year. Yeah, hes going about 100 pitches for 6 innings, which will indeed continue to tax the pen.

  4. Dan Stack
    May 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    I think Wheeler will get the call within the next three weeks-regardless of the Super 2 situation.
    The teams needs some kind of jolt. That said, it was nice to see Gee pitch well tonight. But yet again, we do one thing right (QS by starter) but cant do another thing (drive in runs)right.

    • Chris F
      May 9, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      Gee did not have a QS tonight. He only went 5+ and left with bases loaded, 0 out.

      • Jerry Grote
        May 10, 2013 at 5:48 am

        Ding, ding, ding. Winnah, winnah, chicken dinnah.

        … four starters on this team are under performing by 16%. That is huge … simply huge, especially when you are *leveraging up* the worst part of this team (mmm. Maybe not worst.)

        To put it another way, it means that the Mets would have to come up with an additional 120 innings of relief work (taken to its extreme). As it is, you have a bullpen being held together by duct tape and spit … look at the track record/age of guys like Rice, Atchison, Lyons.

        Playing with dynamite.

  5. May 10, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Wheeler pitches tonight. If he throws well, it will be very difficult to keep him down.

  6. May 10, 2013 at 8:35 am

    I think it’s worth it to pay him as a super two because he is just strugglingin the Las Vegas environment.

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