Zack Wheeler has been very good for the better part of the last three months and only appears to be getting better each start at this point.
The 28-year-old has been even better since the All-Star Break, though, going 6-1 with a 1.19 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 53 strikeouts in eight starts (53 innings).
His last start was yet another example of that as he went seven innings and allowed only one run and four hits while striking out nine batters against the San Francisco Giants.
Wheeler is now putting himself in the top-tier of the National League as his ERA ranks tenth at 3.37 while also ranking 11th in strikeouts with 159 on the year.
The right-hander’s emergence has been one of the few bright spots on the 60-75 Mets this season, and with that emergence comes an important question as he is set to go to arbitration for the final time this offseason before hitting free agency after the 2019 season.
Should the Mets extend Wheeler this offseason to avoid debate on his future in the organization?
As we all know, the Mets openly fielded offers for Wheeler at the MLB Trade Deadline this year, under the belief that they could sell high on him and convince teams on his velocity increase over the season which now places him at 96.5 MPH on his fastball this year, fifth highest in the majors as well as his recent string of success.
However, the team failed to find a taker for the right-hander, with many teams valuing him as part of a lower tier, likely because of the fact he missed two years recovering from Tommy John Surgery and the fact that Wheeler has never hit the 200-inning mark in his career, with the closest he’s gotten being four years ago at 185 1/3 innings pitched which was before he got the surgery.
Many teams likely also viewed his flash of dominance as a fluke considering he finished the month of May with a 5.40 ERA and was more in line with his 5.21 ERA in 2017.
Other teams, though, did not really dissect his previous too well, at least in my opinion. Wheeler was actually somewhat in a groove when he was healthy last season too as he actually lowered his season ERA to 3.45 on June 7.
Wheeler then started to feel fatigue in his elbow, though, which forced him to allow 15 runs in 3 2/3 innings that spanned two starts and forced his ERA to skyrocket to 5.29. July 22 would be his last start of the year as they would choose to shut him down from there.
Anyways, the point is Wheeler is at least a solid pitcher when healthy, and with the progress he has made this year working with Dave Eiland, the Mets should definitely try to keep him in the fold over the long haul.
The question becomes, then, what would it cost to keep the right-hander in orange-and-blue for years to come?
Well, his price tag will be somewhat depressed because of his extensive injury history, but that will be partially counteracted by the fact he will only be a year away from hitting the open market, with not as much incentive to give away his chance to pick his future destination.
Wheeler is likely only to make around $4 million next season given his lowly number of $1.9 million he is making this season.
Therefore, any extension for Wheeler likely would include writing over his last year of arbitration. With that in mind, a five-year deal (four-year extension) worth around $55-$60 million might be able to get Wheeler on board for the Mets long-term.
Is that a guaranteed range? Obviously not.
Wheeler and his agency might very well bank on his ability to keep this recent string of success going next year, which could actually raise the value of his next contract close to the $100 million range while the Mets could show reluctance to give him any long-term guarantee until he repeats this string of success.
Furthermore, if the Mets can’t reach an agreement this offseason, the team could choose to forego keeping him long-term altogether, and simply shop him again in the offseason and trade him to the highest bidder.
The $55-$60 million range could serve as a compromise, though, as it would cover the Mets and his own risk if he were to get hurt or regress again and it would also serve to honor and respect the fact that Wheeler has established himself as not only one of the best pitchers on this team, but in all of baseball as well.
Did You Know…
Wheeler: 40 IP, 1.13 ERA, 27.9 K%, 5.2 BB%, 0.88 WHIP, 47.4 GB% 23.8 Hard Hit %.
DeGrom: 43.2 IP, 1.24 ERA, 35.9 K%, 5.4 BB%, 0.98 WHIP, 46.3 GB%, 25.5 Hard Hit %.