With the MLB Trade Deadline less than 48 hours away, the Mets and basically every other team will be intensifying negotiations with other teams in the hopes of securing a trade.
Obviously, not all of those teams are talking about trades for good reasons, including the Mets who are trying to revamp their farm system by way of trading their remaining assets, which potentially includes Zack Wheeler.
The right-hander has had a solid season in which he has a 4.11 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 116 strikeouts in 120 1/3 innings pitched.
As everyone reading this knows, that stat line isn’t really reflective of the strides he has made in 2018. His ERA in the months of June (3.26) and July (3.13) is much lower than the one he posted in the month of May (6.43).
More encouraging is the fact that his average velocity has risen with each month, all the way up to 96.3 MPH in July, which is the seventh-highest among qualified pitchers. That is a stark difference from the 94.3 MPH he averaged on his fastball in the month of April.
So, here’s the thing. Many have wondered whether this is just a fluke or if this is for real. That is not the question that needs to be asked. More on that later.
At least to me, I think what Wheeler is doing is very real and sustainable. He was once a top prospect who had all the ability in the world.
The only thing that stopped the 28-year old from succeeding was Tommy John Surgery and the arm troubles that came after that.
On top of it, as we have seen with Steven Matz this year as well, Dave Eiland has worked wonders for this pitching staff, in terms of the younger guys because Jason Vargas is just unbearable to watch at this point.
Wheeler looks like a much more composed pitcher on the mound more focused on where the ball is going than the pressure of the big situation.
So if that is not the real question to ask, then what is?
Well, the question, to me at least, is whether or not the team plans to extend Wheeler.
The Georgia native is only under contract through the 2019 season, meaning that he is not exactly a long-term asset for this team.
With the team currently sitting at 43-59 and with basically everything besides the rotation being called into question this offseason, including who the next GM will be, the 2019 season does not look like an entirely promising one for this team.
While the team keeps clamoring that they are going to try and compete next year, they aren’t fooling anyone. It isn’t happening. There are way too many holes on this team to fill. Maybe they can turn it around quickly and be good by 2020-2021, but 2019 is not a realistic goal.
So with that being the case, that brings me back to Wheeler.
Since 2019 is not realistic, then the team needs to decide now whether he will actually be here in 2020. So essentially, extend him or trade him.
If the team doesn’t plan on keeping him here for the majority of his prime, then don’t even think about keeping him after July 31.
Sure, they could wait this out and go into the offseason with him. But, he will lose value having only one year of control remaining and that value will go down each day he inches towards free agency.
On top of it, if he gets hurt again, then all of his recent success would be a moot point. His value plummets even further.
Yeah, maybe he proves that he is really legit, but that will be countered by the previously mentioned expiration date on his deal that will pretty much keep his value, at best, at its current point which is an all-time high for his MLB career.
Personally, I would like to see the team extend him. He legitimately looks like he has turned a corner and, because of his injury history, probably wouldn’t be too difficult to lock up long-term.
We all know how this goes, though.
That will be the perfect excuse for the Wilpons to decide that he isn’t worth a decent-sized payday and because of that they will do the same-old-song-and-dance and keep him until he’s a free agent, make a fake play to keep him, and then let him go and say “we tried” when they really didn’t.
Wheeler’s imperfection will essentially be used as the reason to pass on him and the Wilpons will only be forced to reconsider when they have to deal with pitchers that have much stronger resumes like Jacob deGrom.
So, if that’s how they are going to go with this, then trade him. Save us the pain of having watch talent leave us again. Give us a chance to recoup some of that with some solid prospects in a farm system that is in desperate need of reinforcements instead of trying to pitch us on the same false reality of a team with championship aspirations in 2019.
This decision should have to do with the Wilpon’s willingness to spend more than anything else. You can’t keep talent if you won’t try to stop it from leaving.