Mets’ right-handed pitcher Zack Wheeler is 100 percent healthy for the first time since 2014.
He missed all of 2015 and 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and returned last year but missed the latter half of the season with weakness in his right arm.
Now in good health, Wheeler has ramped up his game, pitching to a 3.26 ERA in June and clocking in at 99 mph on the radar gun. This has perhaps enhanced his trade value, as the Mets are getting calls on the 28-year-old.
The Georgia native considers it a compliment that his name is surfacing in trade rumors, though he wishes to remain New York.
“Obviously teams want you for a reason,” Wheeler said, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. “I like it here and I don’t want to be traded, but it’s baseball — trades happen and I know especially in years getting closer to your free agency, it’s more than likely going to happen. I don’t wish it will happen, but at the same time I know it’s a possibility.”
That winter, Wheeler reached out to then general manager Sandy Alderson to express how he wished to stay in New York and not be dealt.
However, with the Mets likely to endure their second straight losing season, it’s conceivable that they are going to sell off a lot of their parts. That could include Wheeler, who is a free agent after next year.
“I just like New York, man,” Wheeler said. “I like New York and if you are winning, it’s a lot of fun there. We are not doing that well right now. Missing those two years, they went to the playoffs those two years I was gone, so that kind of always eats at me, and I want to get back there with this team and that’s kind of my focus.
“Maybe you do some stuff differently, but I think we have the core here that could lead us that way, give us that direction.”
Wheeler began this season at Triple-A after a rough spring, but was brought back up to the majors shortly after where he has remained since. He’s had some stinkers of outings, but overall has been solid, especially recently.
“I hate to use the words ‘growing up’ or ‘maturity,’ but he is going about his business as a solid, seasoned big-league pitcher,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said.
Wheeler has since added side sessions between starts and has relied more heavily on his fastball.
“It’s like I told him a while back, ‘You have 95, 96 [mph] in there in the tank, why [are] you settling for 91?’ ” Eiland said. “Let it go. As long as he is not coming out of his delivery, he is staying in his delivery, in his control, then why you leaving something in the tank?
“He’s engaged, he is committing to every pitch, he is working between starts. He is getting the most of his raw ability, but it starts with his mind.”
For Wheeler, it could make sense for the Mets to trade him. He is a free agent after next year, and unless New York spends a ton in free agency this winter and brings in some really solid pieces, they likely won’t compete again in 2019.
Wheeler’s trade value is the highest it’s been in four or five years so the Mets could capitalize on that to maximize their value.
If New York believes they are going to have a quick turn around and can really compete next year, then keeping Wheeler would make sense, but at this point, it’s highly unlikely that happens.