The Mets, strategically or otherwise, did the right thing offering Zack Wheeler $18 million to stay with the team for 2020. Now, the ball is in his court…
The Mets, more than most teams seem to know $17.8 million (the value of a qualifying offer this year) is a lot of money to devote to one player. Nevertheless and to their credit, the Mets made this one-year offer to Zack Wheeler, putting the ball in his court to refuse or accept the offer.
The value of starting pitching has escalated in recent years as teams attempt to camouflage their rotation deficiencies with a strong bullpen. But there is no substitute for a bull who can provide six or seven quality innings every fifth day as the season slogs along.
Zack Wheeler, free from injury, provided that kind of stellar season for the Mets in 2019. Over 31 starts for the Mets, his 11-8 record does not speak for much. But it was those 195 innings he pitched and the eight times in his last eleven times he pitched at least six productive innings.
Mets sit and wait as Wheeler decides
Wheeler has until November 14 to accept or reject the Qualifying Offer. If he accepts the offer, it’s a one time offer only, and unless he can work out an extension with the Mets, he automatically is a free agent after next year’s World Series.
If he rejects the offer, he immediately enters the open market as a free agent.
The kicker is that any team that signs him owes the Mets one of their future draft picks. In that sense, the offer is a win-win for the Mets.
Naturally, the Mets are coy about their motives regarding Wheeler. Is the offer a signal they value his talent and want him to remain with the team?
Or, does he does not fit into their plans, and they are secretly hoping he turns down the offer, taking the draft pick to help fortify a sinking farm system?
Wheeler’s bumpy road with the Mets
Wheeler’s history with the Mets is uneven and filled with false starts due to injury. It was only in the second half of the 2019 season when the velocity and spin on his fastball increased. More significantly, command of his pitches was noticeably better, as was his composure on the mound.
Success breeds confidence, and Wheeler “looked” much different from the not too distant past. Too often, Wheeler let his emotions get the best of him on the mound, and his body language emitted a “woe is me” message.
Wheeler has also demonstrated a resistance to change. His thoughts became public in the early part of July when his name was dangled continuously by the media as trade bait.
Following his trade to the Mets from the San Francisco Giants reports like the following exhibit this resistance:
If Wheeler’s out, who’s in…
Should Wheeler opt-out of the offer, a big hole is left in the Met’s rotation. Pickings are slim in the Mets farm system to find a Number Three starter. At that point, either the trade or the free-agent market are the only available sources for Brodie Van Wagenen to pursue.
The crop of this year’s free-agent starters is thick but also very expensive. At yesterday’s press conference introducing Carlos Beltran, Van Wagenen hinted he would not be bashful in making recommendations of high-priced players to Jeff and Fred Wilpon – if the move benefits the team.
The Mets have made one of the many significant decisions on their plate for this offseason. The ball is not in Wheeler’s court…