The Mets would be crazy to trade Zack Wheeler

Zack WheelerAs an active reader of what is probably way too many Mets blogs, message boards, ESPN Insider articles, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a feeling that the Mets should consider dangling Zack Wheeler in a trade for a premium bat. The biggest name being thrown around right now is Starlin Castro, mainly because the Cubs suddenly became loaded at SS with the addition of Addison Russell to their already stocked farm system.

This is a crazy idea. Not that I actually think Sandy Alderson would do it, but I get the feeling that many people truly don’t understand how good a year Wheeler is having. While his record is a pedestrian 5-8, he is top 20 in the NL in the following categories (min 80 IP):

54.1 GB% (8th)
9.72 K/9 (9th)
.58 HR/9 (9th)
.318 BABIP vs. (9th)
105 Ks (13th)
22.9 K% (13th)
3.49 xFIP (19th)
94 xFIP – (19th)

It’s true his walks could stand to come down a bit, and they have come down just a bit compared to 2013 (4.14 BB/9 vs 3.82 BB/9). But in countering that, his K/9 is up an entire K compared to 2013. Now, some of you may have never seen or heard any of these other stats, so I’ll go into them just a bit. xFIP is one of my favorite stats because it’s a better version of FIP, which is Fielding Independent Pitching. FIP is a way to quantify what a pitcher’s ERA would be based on only what the pitcher can control. Pitchers have very little control of what happens once the ball is put in play, but things like strikeouts, walks, HBPs and HR/FB ratio are very much in the control of the pitcher. xFIP is the next level of that, xFIP replaces home runs allowed with how many home runs they should have allowed, based on the league average HR/FB ratio. According to FanGraphs, an xFIP of 3.25 is great, and an xFIP of 3.75 is above average. With Wheeler firmly at 3.49, he’s right in the middle of great and above average. xFIP – is league and park adjusted, and is based on a scale with 100 being average. Each individual point below 100 is 1% better than the league average. So, xFIP- says Wheeler is a 6% better pitcher than league average. Of course, that league average is being made ridiculous with Kershaw’s pitching this year, but that will even out over time.

Let’s compare Wheeler’s 2013 stats to his 2014 stats:

Year GS IP K/9 BB/9 FIP xFIP xFIP- WHIP fWAR
2013 17 100 7.56 4.14 4.17 4.21 112 1.36 0.6
2014 19 108.1 8.72 3.82 3.41 3.49 94 1.36 1.3

Just by increasing his K/9 rate by 1 and by slightly decreasing his BB/9 rate, Wheeler has made his fWAR double. He went from being a pitcher 12% worse than league average, to a player 6% better than league average, good for an 18% improvement. An 18% improvement next year would give him a FIP of 2.77, which which would be 3rd in the NL this season. It’s crazy to say he would have another 18% improvement year to year, but even a hopeful estimate, at 5%, would put him at around 89, not too far behind a player like Adam Wainwright and his 87 xFIP- this season. Would you trade a pitcher that is that close to being on that level, for Starlin Castro? I hope not.

23 comments for “The Mets would be crazy to trade Zack Wheeler

  1. Fireman488
    July 15, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    I agree. When thinking about trading young pitching talent, remember the infamous Nolan Ryan trade.

    • Marc Melton
      July 15, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Or, for us youngins…Scott Kazmir!

    • Jerry Grote
      July 15, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      at what point has Zack Wheeler averaged 20 strikeouts a game? at what point did he deal 100 MPH pitches?

      I am so sick to death with that crap about “Nolan Ryan” … like it was the worst trade in history.

      Fregosi, from his age 22 to age 29 season, was literally Troy Tulowitzki (JF, 41 WAR. TT, 39 WAR).

      The Mets took in damaged goods, and they got burned. JF was injured the year before and they acquired the best reputation in baseball – a guy that had redefined the position.

      And again, the trade of Kazmir was for what? An injured player. It’s not trading young pitching that’s a bad idea. It’s trading for an injured player that’s a bad idea.

      • Andrew Lavam
        July 15, 2014 at 6:58 pm

        Except Zambrano didn’t get hurt until two seasons later.

        • Jerry Grote
          July 15, 2014 at 10:59 pm

          Zambrano was thought to be damaged goods (admittedly, not injured per se.) The Mets arrogant pitching coach Rick Peterson vowed he could fix him in 10 minutes before that trade went through.

          At any rate, the concept of caveat emptor applies in either case. You trade for quality goods, not on the discount rack.

          • Steve L
            July 16, 2014 at 5:29 pm

            The problem with Kazmir-for-Zambrano is that Zambrano wasn’t all that good or durable to begin with, and at age 28 was unlikely to improve. At the time Kazmir was considered a top pitching prospect, so while not a sure thing it clearly would have been better to hang onto the upside rather than trade it away for a guy who could have easily been replaced.

      • dc2020
        July 15, 2014 at 9:33 pm

        Wow, a defender of the Ryan trade. I have to admit, I like your style.

        Met scout Whitey Herzog thought trading Leroy Stanton straight up for Fregosi would’ve been a bad trade, though. Me, I wonder if Ryan would’ve ever found himself in NY. I got the impression he didn’t like it there.

        But in any case, at least they held onto Jon Matlack, who was better. Had he not wrecked his arm, he’d have ranked with Seaver.

  2. Chris F
    July 15, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    I trade him this minute. He has no evidence of control, and his numbers are skewed by a few outings and specific teams he seems to excel against. Having a Marlins specialist makes no sense. In any event, anything good will require giving away something good. Of the arms we have coming that have value, I’d put his on the top of the block to move.

    • Marc Melton
      July 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      He doesn’t have enough history to show that he is good against every team, but he does do well vs the Braves/Phillies/Marlins and isn’t that what you want? They play those 3 more than any other team.

      Also, what I would have given for a Marlins specialist in 2007/2008.

    • Name
      July 15, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      Wheeler has made 19 starts.
      Let’s take away his 4 best games and 4 worst games to see what the 25th to 75th percentile average Wheeler is like.

      His 4 best were: 4/25 Miami, 5/7 Miami, 6/19 Miami, 6/3 Chicago (barely edging out 7/11 Miami). See a trend?

      His 4 worst were: 5/2 Rockies, 5/13 Yankees, 6/8 Giants, 6/25 Oakland.

      Taking out those 8 starts, you are left with 11 starts of:
      66.2 IP (average of 6.06 per start)
      3.64 ERA (remember he pitches half his games at spacious Citi)
      8.1 k/9 (solid)
      3.1 bb/9 (acceptable)
      3.48 FIP (same as his total stats)

      What do i make of all that? On an average day, you have a guy who is about league average, has swing and miss stuff but also control problems, and will struggle to give you 6 innings and likely taxing your bullpen in the long term.

      As for his season stats, it’s clearly being buoyed by the 4 Marlins starts, and he’s facing them more than he should expect to see. The Marlins only comprise of 12% of our schedule yearly, and so far 21% of his starts this year are against them.

      If some team wants to pay for him like he’s a #1/2 *right now*, then i’d do it in a heartbeat. Otherwise, i keep him and give him 1-2 more years to figure it out while he’s dirt cheap, and if he doesn’t, then trade him.

    • Jerry Grote
      July 15, 2014 at 5:42 pm

      +1.

      You are basing pretty much everything you’d like to be true about Wheeler on the last 5 games. Before that, through the first 14 starts of this year and the 17 of last year, and 400 innings of minor league work, he was actually a mess.

      I’d love this five game stretch to continue into the future. But the guy you are talking about is the pinnacle of consistency, someone that walks out onto the field day after day, has been to the All Star game 3x before his 25th birthday. As a shortstop, and he’s underpaid at that.

      Tell you what, lets see how many guys made three AS games at SS before age 25 and went on to be a bust. My guess is that’s a short list.

      Five games. Let him finish the year on that pace, and Wheeler is untouchable. Now, I’d welcome that trade.

    • Metsense
      July 16, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Does that make Wheeler a POOTGY? Pitcher Only One Team GuY.
      Let’s not give TC and Dandy Dan any new pitching ideas.

  3. Patrick Albanesius
    July 15, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I agree with you Marc, Wheeler is improving very nicely from last year. I know what the complaints against him are, but he seems to be a pitcher who is putting it together little by little, not in huge dramatic strides. If he’s merely league-average after only 30+ starts, I’ll take that any day of the week.

    • Chris F
      July 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      But if you can get a way above average position player and there’s a huge pipeline of arms coming up, what’s the aversion of playing him. Look at the games logs like Name has done here, he’s mostly not league average. If a long term plan at shortstop emerges, I’m in all day every day for a trade

  4. July 15, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Wheeler is obviously a blue-chip prospect and going through some growing pains. Does he have the same ceiling as Harvey? Too soon to tell.

    That said, Starlin Castro appears to have some issues on defense and in his head. IMHO, if the mets are trading Wheeler, he needs to be part of a better deal than Castro.

  5. July 16, 2014 at 12:28 am

    If he can’t harness his control(walks) then his pitch count will continue to force TC to take him out earlier then he would prefer. Do the math. 4 walks= 20 pitches. 9 K’S 36-40 pitches. Fourth inning and you’re averaging 18- 20 pitches per inning. If the team has a shot at a legitimate 100 R.B.I./30 + home run hitter then you have to make the trade because this team does not have a 30/100 hitter who will help the Mets this year or in 2015.

  6. Metsense
    July 16, 2014 at 1:29 am

    The Mets need an established middle of the order impact bat. It appears a pitcher will have to be given up in some type of package deal to obtain this impact bat. I believe the impact bat is the key to get to the next level.
    Castro for Wheeler does not get the Mets that impact bat so I would wait for a better trade. That better trade could include any other of the Mets starters , not necessarily Wheeler.

    • Jerry Grote
      July 16, 2014 at 10:17 am

      Makes sense, except that trading for the 30HR/100RBI guy is going to take a whole lot more than just Wheeler and some spare parts. On top of that, the power bat is likely going to be making more than the Mets pay (or has some other, severe limitation like extreme age).

      I did a look-see, and found there’s really about 25-40 guys in any given year that produce like that and perhaps only five to ten have done it for three years running. Its possible we now have three guys that *could* be like that on the team right now.

      Bottom line, I wouldn’t hold my breath. We won’t move two premier young arms (and probably, some additional spare parts) to get a Tulo/Cargo/Stanton type player. And even if we did, we’d have problems with the contracts.

      Just my 2 cents. Like you say, the better play is to stay with Tejada and trade for the cleanup guy. I can’t see Sandy letting go of the talent to make it happen.

      • Jerry Grote
        July 16, 2014 at 10:19 am

        and for what its worth, I noticed that on bbref Tejada’s defensive metrics were steadily creeping up to around the top 4 or 5 in the NL. Ahead of some pretty flashy names, too.

      • July 16, 2014 at 11:18 am

        Trading Colon (11 million 2015) and subtracting CY’s 7.25 million payroll would actually be less with CarGo (16.25 million 2015).

        • July 16, 2014 at 11:50 am

          This is true.

          But I’ve always felt that the Mets were going to use CY’s money for arbitration bumps and not plow that back into “new” payroll. And I’ve heard others speculate that the goal was to always flip Colon and not pay him the full amount of his contract.

          Plus, is CarGo’s deal up after 2015?

    • Metsense
      July 16, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      I actually think the package won’t be two young starters but Instead include Murphy and one starter. Murphy $5.7, Colon $9, and CY $7.25 makes almost $22 for an annual salary for an impact bat this winter.
      This is why it is important to move Colon at the deadline this year.
      Regarding Parnell, he will be a free agent in 2016 and won’t be pitching until sometime between April and June 2015. If he proves healthy, I expect him to be moved at the deadline in 2015.
      Regarding the payroll: if the Wilpon’s won’t absorb the arbitration increases as part of doing business with the potential of making huge profits then they are fools. In fact, if the Wilpon’s would sink enough money into the team to get an upgrade at SS they would be at the point of contention as there would be no furthur holes to fill.

  7. July 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

    No he has 2 more additional years at 17.4 and 20 .4 million. Do you keep Parnell and his 3.6 million? You could always apply his salary to arb. bumps.Payroll today sits at about 80 million+ which includes Dice-K. The team will probably top at 90 million for the season so….It takes care of left field for the next 2 and a half years and sets the outfield as well.

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