Mets making the wrong call on Zack Wheeler

In an effort to boost the trade value of pending free agent Zack Wheeler, the Mets are planning to take advantage of an off day to bump Steven Matz to the bullpen and have Wheeler make an additional start before the All-Star break. The hard- throwing righty will be in demand by teams in contention, but given that he’s in his walk year, the Mets aren’t likely to get more than a good prospect (and not a top 100 type) in return.

Though he got off to a bit of slow start, Wheeler has been coming on strong of late. Through 18 starts, Wheeler is 6-5 with a 4.42 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 114 innings pitched. His peripheral numbers tell a better story – 9.7 K/9, 3.63 FIP, and an ERA+ of 92. Following a Cy Young like second half of 2018, Wheeler struggled a bit this season, perhaps with getting used to a new catcher, some lousy April weather and poor defense behind him. He’s clearly trending in the right direction. Wheeler is throwing harder than ever, hitting 100 mph with his fastball a number of times. And his 5-pitch repertoire has kept batters off balance. He also fields his position well, is a strong hitter for a pitcher and has been surprisingly durable. He’s also gone deep into games more consistently than any other Mets starter this year.

Wheeler just turned 29 and a smart team would not look to trade him for a small return and savings of less than half of his $6 million salary. A smart team would make him an offer to stay on as the Mets #2 starter long-term, to commit to being Robin to Jacob deGrom‘s Batman. A smart team would sit down with his agent and open negotiations on something like a four-year $60 million contract and go from there. This is the same guy who called former GM Sandy Alderson and pleaded to stay in NY when he was nearly packaged with Wilmer Flores in a trade for the just released Carlos Gomez.

If the Mets decide to throw in the towel on 2019, there are plenty of other trade chips to help them reshuffle the deck for 2020. Seth Lugo, as much as we all love him, is pitching with a partially torn ligament. Dominic Smith, as much as we all love him, is a man without a position. Pending free agents Jason Vargas and Todd Frazier are not likely to return next year. Trading Wilson Ramos, a good-hitting catcher but a bad receiver who hasn’t jelled with the pitching staff, would be addition by subtraction. Amed Rosario, who’s struggled both with the glove and getting on base possesses enough bat, speed and youth to make him an appealing trade chip. Two possible replacements are coming up through the system and Adeiny Hechavarria can hold the line for this year.

If the Mets want to make a big trade, they should consider packaging Noah Syndergaard. Though he’s struggled this year, he’s younger, cheaper, under control and loaded with tantalizing potential. For the right price, the Mets should make him available. A team like the Houston Astros would be perfect. They need of another starter both for the playoffs and for next year with Gerrit Cole entering free agency and they have a number of top prospects like outfielder Kyle Tucker and pitcher Forrest Whitley . Syndergaard is from the Houston area too so it could be a good match.

Simply unloading pending free agents to save money and gather a few prospects is the type of short-sighted plan Alderson had. Hopefully, Brodie Van Wagenen takes a more cerebral approach to this that considers package deals, salary off-sets and, most importantly, an eye on 2020.


7 comments for “Mets making the wrong call on Zack Wheeler

  1. Chris F
    July 5, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Move ’em all.

    However, im not sure its reasonable to expect other teams to take on the Mets trash; I mean if these arent good enough for a near last place team.

    I think there is value in Wheeler and Syndergaard. This is the time you make smart moves with finishing pieces, and even those that can do like teh Astros, go to October to start *and* relieve. Neither are similar to Verlander, but I think you can get a decent prospect for each, esp Syndergaard with his controllable years. Id only move if the return is better than what BVW has been commanding so far in his miserable trades.

    Smith has value. He’s blocked at his only natural position. Its a fools folly to pretend this guy is an OF just to get him AB. I think that he can be sold as an every day 1B, which he would be, if he werent blocked by a better 1B for ever. He’s not in the OF the way Schwarber is. Teams know that.

    Rosario, Ramos, Frazier, Lagares, Gsellman, Familia, even Diaz are much harder to find partners for, and most certainly no team would give up much if anything beyond salary. I’d personally keep Lugo and Diaz, dangle everyone else on that list and see if any team stupid enough to bite.

    Basically, Id keep Alonso, McNeil, and deGrom and *listen* on every other player on the team.

    • July 5, 2019 at 1:42 pm

      I’d go one step further – I’d keep deGrom and listen on every other person on the team. Alonso is great and I look forward to watching him play the next decade. But he might be the player you can deal and stack the farm system. I think he’s easier to replace than deGrom.

      But, as you made reference to earlier, most of the guys have no trade value, at least right now. You either need a team that hasn’t done anything in a dozen or more years or you need a legitimate bidding war to get good value for a rental. People who think the package for two months of Wheeler is going to bring back a big haul are kidding themselves.

      The Mets prioritized extending deGrom when they still had two seasons of control when they should have extended Wheeler, instead. Now they’re faced with trading Wheeler for pennies on the dollar or giving him the QO and risk having teams treat him like they did Keuchel and not get anything at all. The Mets blew this and they have no one to blame but themselves.

      I’m not sure which way you think Schwarber is in the OF — but he’s terrible out there.

      • Chris F
        July 5, 2019 at 3:43 pm

        I agree Brian. The posturing of how the mets have allocated resources and the timing commitments puts them in a perpetual disadvantage. It has us locked in this cannot improve path because of money or contract duration.

        Schwarber is terrible. He’s exclusively an AL player who’s on the field because of his bat. Dom is terrible in the OF, but he’s not Schwarber in a key way: he has a natural position that he could play every day as a major leaguer in the NL or AL. The gives him more value, much more vale actually, in my eyes. He’s a part timer and parked in the OF as a victim of circumstance, not skills.

        I think the control years and the fact these are the kinds of guys you want on a team give McNeil and Alonso a reason to keep them. You may recall, I have already propositioned to sign Alonso for 10 yr and 100M$. Id do that over Wheeler all day every day.

  2. Mike Walczak
    July 5, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    I feel the winds of the Wheeler trade. Here is the problem. If you don’t extend Wheeler, and it may be too late for that, who replaces him?

    Syndergaard is the trade chip. It is a big risk to trade him, because we need a serious haul in return for him with payers that are close to major league ready. With BVW, that could be a scary thought. I like Syndergaard, but he hasnt become the dominating pitcher that he should be.

    I feel the best option is the extend Wheeler.

    Dump Frazier and Ramos because we need to see what Nido can do for a full half season and to see what JD Davis can do playing full time.

    Vargas, maybe. Not much value and we need a body to put out there every 5th day.

    Mets have a lot of problems to solve, but we have to start somewhere, because this repeat of last year has gotten really old.

    Gotta give credit though for their bold draft strategy and getting to sign Allan.

    Lets see what BVW can do in getting someone to seriously overpay for Syndergaard.

  3. BK
    July 5, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    None of their problems will be solved for this season. Trade Syndergaard for a good package of prospects, unload Ramos and Frazier on whoever will take them for a bag of balls, and regroup for next year and beyond. I’m not even that concerned with Wheeler’s fate given his age and inconsistency.

  4. Eraff
    July 5, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    If they convince themselves that the blown saves are an exception, you may see “Fringe Trades” and a chance to bring in FA to fill gaps. If they do that, they’d extend Wheeler and consider re-loading with Syndergaard and a beefed up 4/5 starter,…add a CF…Trade Dom after he’s shown he can hit… Blow out Todd…maybe Ramos.

    I’m not convinced that None of this works, but it needs to be one track or the other…oh…and a 20-30% increase in Payroll as a Target ahead.

    When is Mark Cuban Buying a Baseball Team?

  5. Name
    July 5, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    I’ve been biting my tongue on Wheeler for a while but now i’ve got to chime in

    5+ ERA in 2017
    mid 4s ERA first half in 2018
    1 something ERA in the 2nd half of 2018
    mid 4s ERA again so far in 2019.

    What are people seeing that i’m not? Paying Wheeler would be as stupid as the Red Sox giving Eovaldi that ridiculous contract because they were overly enamored with an 10 week stretch of play rather than look at the whole body of play

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