Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Now that the Mets have announced Jacob deGrom's contract extension, their next move should be to engage Zack Wheeler and prevent him from hitting the open market at the end of the season.
The front office was focused on deGrom negotiations through spring training, and did not engage in substantive talks with any of its other extension candidates, be it Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso or Amed Rosario.
With deGrom done, the next move is to pivot to internal discussions about which these other players represent the best gambles. Because of timing and production, Wheeler should be first up. He is the only one of the group in his final year of team control.
Wheeler has improved significantly since the early part of his career, when he struggled to convert his talent into results. Inconsistent in the strike zone and ineffectively wild, he ran high pitch counts and lacked command of his electric stuff. Then he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed two years.
Give Wheeler tremendous credit for what he's done since. After a brief trip to the minor leagues at the beginning of last season, he finally emerged in the second half as the pitcher we once expected him to be.
For two months, in fact, Wheeler was comparable -- if not even a tick better than -- deGrom, the eventual Cy Young winner. In his final 11 starts, Wheeler went 9-1, with a 1.68 ERA, 15 walks and 73 strikeouts. DeGrom, is his last 12 starts, was 5-4 with a 1.68 ERA, 14 walks and 110 strikeouts.
Confident and newly mature in his craft, Wheeler, 28, appears headed for a few years as a highly effective, front-of-the-rotation pitcher. For the Mets, it will be easier to keep the guy they developed and know than to find a new No. 2 starter.
Wheeler is unlikely to offer the Mets much of a discount, but has not pulled a deGrom and set any kind of deadline for negotiating in season. He is open for business.
When it comes to extensions, the rest of baseball is now open for business, too. All over, teams are locking up their players before free agency. The Mets joined the party this week by taking care of deGrom, and should keep it rolling with Wheeler.