If that question had been asked on February 8th, the answer would be most likely a suitcase, a lawyer, and the potential to contribute to an elite Mets pitching staff. Of course on February 8th the table Zack Wheeler would have been coming to would be a negotiation table, sitting opposite if the New York Mets. The two sides couldn’t agree on a salary heading into the 2018 season, so an arbitration meeting was necessary.
More often than not, we see arbitration hearings for star players stuck under cheap, team-friendly deals. In Wheeler’s case however, the Mets are just simply unsure if what they’re going to get from the righty. After all, the righty hasn’t pitched consistently for the team since 2014, a time before competitiveness was even a question for the team. This was of course the season before the Mets elite pitching and dynamic home run style took the league by storm. Wheeler, who was the top piece of the 2011 Carlos Beltran trade, has always been the odd man out of the rotation.
Prior to 2015, what was supposed to be Wheeler’s breakout season, he tore his Ulnar Collateral Ligament, forcing him into the infamous Tommy John surgery. Complications forced the rehab for Wheeler to miss not only all of 2015, but 2016 as well. Wheeler has never been able to be apart of a competitive Mets rotation, which is a shame considering he was supposed to be a major part of it. He won his arbitration case against the Mets, and he will earn $1.9 million for this season.
The Mets, who otherwise spent a surprising amount of money this offseason, were hesitant to spend money on Wheeler. Last season, in his first time back from two injury delayed seasons, Wheeler struggled. He was placed on the disabled list twice, and finished with a 3-7 record and 5.21 record. It makes everyone wonder what, if anything, is still in the tank for Wheeler.
Of course the young culture that’s in baseball forces us to beg this question. The reality is that teams tend to lean towards players that are young and team controlled. Wheeler has not even reached his prime yet at age 27. I have confidence that he can regain his 2014 form, when he pitched to a solid 3.54 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 185 innings pitched.
Wheeler used to bring velocity to his performance, which made him a dynamic presence on the mound. The best thing that Wheeler has right now is that he didn’t lose that velocity, it seemed he only lost his command. According to Fangraphs, Wheeler only lost .8 mph on his fastball from 2014 to 2017, which shows his arm still has the strength that it used to.
Of course there are some that don’t see Wheeler being able to gain back his old form. Its understandable after last year’s performance. Just think of how huge a boost a healthy Wheeler would be to this rotation however. If Wheeler can contribute to the rotation that also has Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, it would be huge for this team. Wheeler still has miles left in his tank, and its time for him to contribute to that winning rotation that he has always wanted to be a part of.