Zack Wheeler’s ERA has climbed from 4.20 to 4.46 over his last four starts. Largely ineffective at a time the Mets need him most, the bullpen remains an option to explore…
Zack Wheeler looked like he was ready to take off. His first two starts in August were impeccable. Hurling seven and eight innings against the White Sox and Marlins, Wheeler did not give up a run. Confident and controlled on the mound, he appeared ready to join the rest of the stellar Mets rotation in the drive to a Wild Card.
When the competition got tougher, Wheeler lost two decisions to the Braves, surrendering ten runs in eleven innings pitched. His only victory in his last three starts came at the expense of the lowly Kansas City Royals, lasting only five innings while giving up four runs in a game the Mets won 11-5.
Removing Wheeler from the starting rotation is an option the Mets should explore. Featuring a fastball that reaches 97-98 mph, Wheeler has the pedigree of a reliever who can miss bats in a tight situation that calls for a strikeout. Adjusting to the change is another matter.
Phil Regan, the Met’s pitching coach, is on hand to help. But Wheeler is known for his propensity to resist change. Mets fan, for instance, will recall his public pleas asking the Mets not to trade him at the deadline. They didn’t, and here we are.
As a free agent to be in November, you would think Wheeler would be open to anything that can increase his value in the open market. Flexibility and taking one for your team are two distinct qualities teams look for with any player.
The other consideration for the Mets and Mickey Callaway is this. If Wheeler goes to the bullpen, who replaces him in the rotation. No one on the current 25-man roster appears ready to fill the void. But there are options at the Mets Triple-A team in Syracuse.
Mets: Options At Syracuse?
Corey Oswalt is 10-3 with a 2.83 ERA over 15 starts at Syracuse. Oswalt is a control artist with only 13 walks over 81 innings pitched. The low innings count means he has something left in the tank. Oswalt has won six of his last seven decisions, including a seven-inning effort in which Oswalt gave up no runs on four hits. Oswalt doesn’t blow hitters away, but he gets the job done.
A sleeper at Syracuse is veteran pitcher Ervin Santana. Pretty much a basket case, the Mets picked Santana as insurance. Ineffective of late, Santana has lost four of his last five decisions. A change of scenery and the chance for a return to the majors, where he has won 149 games over his career, could be just what doctor ordered. No longer a power pitcher, Santana pitches to contact and relies on his defense, an area where the Mets continue to improve.
A third option is Drew Gagnon who has made thirteen Triple-A starts, turning in a 6-4 record with a 2.11 ERA. Over his last fours starts, Gagnon has pitched into the sixth inning or better, lowering his ERA from 2.60 to where he is now at 2.11. One caveat, though. In 17 appearances with the Mets this year, batters hit .314 against him. Gagnon also gave up ten home runs in just over 22 innings pitched. Iffy, but possible.
Time For Last-Minute Tweaking
The Mets are at the point in their season where they need to explore all options. If it is broke, fix it. Wheeler appears to be breaking in the spot where he is now. A check on the MLB Transaction Wire reveals nothing that would be in the interest of the Mets. But it’s something to check every day as players are being “designated for assignment” each day.
Zack Wheeler is not getting the job done. The Mets have a day off today, and perhaps Brodie Van Wagenen, Mickey Callaway, and Phil Regan can put their heads together to come up with a plan to resolve the problem.
It’s not a deal-breaker for the Mets and their drive to secure a place in the postseason. But as always, every team is looking for that last-minute tweak, that can take them to the postseason…