In what could be his final week in a Mets uniform, pending free-agent right-hander Zack Wheeler spoke about his future with Mollie Walker of the New York Post, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com and other reporters Wednesday. Unsurprisingly, the 29-year-old Wheeler doesn’t sound like someone who’s ready to commit to his current team with what could be a lucrative trip to the open market looming.
“I think you have to weigh your options when it gets to this point,” said Wheeler, who’s just over a month from becoming a free agent. “I love it here and I definitely would listen to these guys. But I think you have to weigh all your options and see what’s best for me personally at that point.”
Wheeler was both a trade and an extension candidate as recently as July, but the Mets neither dealt him nor locked him up. And there haven’t been any rumors regarding a new contract between the sides since then, so it appears increasingly likely Wheeler will test the market.
Considering the wide interest he drew prior to the trade deadline, the Mets probably could have gotten something for Wheeler back in July (though he was coming off shoulder issues at the time). However, even if he walks in free agency, they’ll still have a chance to land draft compensation for Wheeler – who looks like a surefire candidate to receive the qualifying offer. Wheeler would then have the option of accepting the one-year offer (which should be worth in the $18MM-$19MM neighborhood) and sticking with the Mets. As you’d expect, though, Wheeler prefers more security than the QO presents.
On the prospect of signing a multiyear pact, Wheeler stated: “Hopefully, yeah. Time will tell.”
Although Wheeler’s a former Tommy John patient who sat out for almost all of 2015-17 with arm injuries, he has spent the past two seasons making a strong case for a considerable multiyear payday. After firing 182 1/3 innings of 3.31 ERA/3.25 FIP ball in 2018, Wheeler has notched 187 1/3 frames of 3.99 ERA/3.47 FIP pitching this year. During that two-year span, Wheeler has struck out just under a hitter per inning while walking fewer than three per nine. Moreover, Wheeler boasts elite fastball velocity – the pitch clocks in at just under 97 mph – which should only make it easier for him to cash in during the coming months.
In the event Wheeler pitches for a different team in 2020, the top of the Mets’ rotation could still be in enviable shape. Ace Jacob deGrom might be a back-to-back NL Cy Young winner by then, while Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman make for fine complements. Then again, with all the trade rumors that have surrounded Syndergaard since last winter, perhaps he – like Wheeler – isn’t a lock to don a Mets uni next year.