Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said on Monday that the team will extend the one-year qualifying offer to free agent Zack Wheeler. And though Wheeler is expected to decline, that doesn't mean it's definitely the end of the road for him with the Mets.
The Mets explored a potential extension with Wheeler during the 2019 season and that dialogue has continued, according to Van Wagenen.
"Yes," Van Wagenen said when asked if he'll continue to go after Wheeler with the qualifying offer off the table. "We will continue to have dialogue with him as we already have so far."
If Wheeler accepts the offer, it would be around $18 million for the 2020 season on a one-year deal. If he rejects the offer, the Mets receive a compensatory pick for the 2020 MLB Draft.
Most projections have Wheeler receiving a deal of four years for between $70 million and $80 million, which could make him very attractive on a free agent market that has Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg as the top two starting pitchers available.
Both Cole and Strasburg are expected to ink deals worth well north of $100 million. For Cole, that number will likely be north of $200 million.
When it comes to the Mets potentially extending Wheeler, it should be noted that -- after accounting for arbitration raises -- they already have roughly $174 million committed to the payroll for the 2020 season.
One option the Mets have with Wheeler (and other free agents) is middle-loading or back-loading a deal to blunt the impact on the 2020 payroll.
Wheeler has established himself as a solid rotation piece for New York, especially over the past two seasons where he owned a 3.31 ERA and 3.96 ERA respectively. During the second half of the 2018 season, in particular, Wheeler's 1.68 ERA rivaled that of fellow starter Jacob deGrom, who won the Cy Young Award.