"If a pitcher of [Wheeler's] caliber can be a difference-maker now and help the Mets win immediately and give the impression that Sandy Alderson is not mailing it in this season, there is a compelling argument to start him in Flushing," Lennon writes.
From a baseball perspective, I agree with Lennon. Sandy Alderson did note on ESPN radio last week Wheeler only has a small amount of exposure at Triple-A, and his innings were limited during camp because of an oblique strain. But the Mets have at least one major hole in the rotation, and the jury is still out on Marcum. Jeremy Hefner might be able to fill one void temporarily, but he is better suited as a guy who can come in and out of the bullpen, make a spot start here or there, but not start every five days. If Wheeler is Major League ready, as many scouts have reportedly suggested this spring, then yes, the Mets could use Wheeler right now.
"For any team to purposely hurt its chances to win right away - from the first week of the regular season - because of what it might cost them a few seasons later sends a mixed message to everyone," Lennon writes.
I don't think the message is so mixed - it's clear what the story is with the Mets, and what they're trying to build towards. Thus. as I've said many times before, there are major business reasons why the Mets should not promote Wheeler for Opening Day. The extra year of control is a big deal right now - given the state of the Mets, there is no reason to sacrifice a year of control over a matter of 20 days. That would be a hasty move, and a bad business decision.
The Mets do have to consider the possibility of Wheeler becoming "Super Two" eligible if they promote him before the cutoff (which should be in mid-June). If that happens, Wheeler will earn a fourth year of arbitration eligibility, which will escalate his salary quickly if he performs. However, Alderson said last weekend he would disregard the possibility of Travis d'Arnaud becoming "Super Two" eligible should a need arise; I have to believe the same applies to Wheeler. As Lennon suggests, Alderson could consider contract extensions for both at some point, which would help create cost certainty and control the costs of both their arbitration years and first couple of years of free agency.
If Alderson's plan is going to be successful, then staying the course, remaining patient, and following common baseball practice all must be maintained. I know full well the rotation is in shambles right now, and Wheeler could probably provide both immediate stabilization and credibility. But the moment a shortcut is taken is the moment the Mets deviate from the plan, and that can impact how all of this plays out, from Wheeler's perspective as well as from an organizational perspective.
[sny-accordion title="To learn more about service time and 'Super Two' eligibility, click here..."]
Per MLB rules, a player accrues a full year of Major League service time if he spends 172 of the 182 days on the active roster or on the Major League disabled list. If a player is optioned to the minor leagues for 20 days or less, he is credited with big league service time as well.
In the case of both Wheeler and d'Arnaud they would be eligible for free agency after the 2018 season if they earn a full year of service time in 2013; they would be eligible for free agency after the 2019 season if they don't accrue a full year until next season.
A player becomes “Super Two” eligible if he is one of the top 22 percent of rookies called up in a season, and has more than two but less than three years of service time. If a player becomes eligible, he has four years of arbitration eligibility, the first coming after his second year.[/sny-accordion]