Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Zack Wheeler continued his underrated season on Thursday, allowing one run in six innings in a brutal 6-3 loss to the Phillies. The way this year is shaking out for the Mets, who fell to eight games under .500, it's becoming clear that Wheeler's long career with the team is likely winding down.
For weeks, rival GMs have wondered if the Mets will become sellers. The team's recent play has begun to answer that question for Brodie Van Wagenen.
If the Mets don't turn their season around immediately, they'll have to field inquiries on Wheeler and Todd Frazier, both free agents at the end of the year. Wheeler's performance between now and July 31 will, of course, influence his value.
If Wheeler pitches inconsistently and the Mets don't receive palatable offers, the bet here is that they will hold him and extend a qualifying offer at the end of the season, then get a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere.
Once Wheeler hits the open market, teams like the Yankees, Braves and Brewers will create stiff competition for his services. He will be one of the top free agent starters on the market.
If the Mets decide to trade Wheeler in-season, they will find a willing suitor across town.
"The Yankees love him," said one MLB source, reiterating what we've heard several times over the past few weeks.
Still, the Yanks won't even entertain trading the available Clint Frazier for Wheeler or any other rental. It's likely that Wheeler could fetch a prospect or two from a team's top 15. Perhaps the Mets will seize that opportunity, or perhaps they will see more value in a compensatory pick.
Financially, Wheeler would be well-served by a trade. Players traded during the season are not eligible to receive qualifying offers, adding to their free agent value.
Wheeler, 29, became a Met in 2011, when Sandy Alderson acquired him from San Francisco for Carlos Beltran. It was the first big move of the Alderson era, initiating a rebuild that ended with the Mets winning the 2015 National League pennant and 2016 Wild Card.
An injured Wheeler missed both of those playoff runs, but returned to establish himself as a high-end starter. Interested teams understand that his stuff and peripherals tell a far more accurate story than his 4.51 ERA.