Zack Wheeler has been a solid starter for the lovable Mets. While his ERA has been mediocre this season at 4.69, his name is definitely out there among the other 2019 trade bait. Things, unfortunately, continue to spiral for Gotham’s Amazin’s.
Whether Zack likes it or not, he is in the shadow of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. All bets are that Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen would be more driven to extend either of the latter instead. And if the Mets landed our All-Star second baseman and closer, wouldn’t it be cool if we could land their three-hole starter?
Let’s look ahead to the 2020 Mariners rotation. The team will still have Yusei Kikuchi and hopefully Marco Gonzales. As fun as Felix was to watch, is anyone else ready to see him walk? And as much of a difference Wade Leblanc made in 2018, his time as a Mariner has come. Wade’s 2019 starts have been tough to watch and he has been shelled by opponents too often. And sometimes your stuff works effectively one year and just doesn’t. I see 2019 as Wade Leblanc’s last year as a Mariner.
The main reason is that per Spotrac, Wade’s 2020 option depends on going 160 IP with arm health. Wade’s arm may be healthy but it hasn’t fooled many hitters. Add in Tommy Milone who is an interim in Felix’s absence. Who knows whether or not Milone will be back? But if he is, he shouldn’t be the ideal number two starter behind Marco. So if Milone stays you have him, Marco, and Kikuchi.
Tommy Milone has done well as a Mariner but if he is your best veteran starter, it’s time to invest in some more. Will Zack Wheeler be the best free agent starter in 2020? No, because Gerrit Cole will be on the open market as well. While it would be fun to see Cole strut a Mariners uniform, it doesn’t seem likely.
Even though he will be able to walk free next year, the Astros probably want to stay on top of the West. Which is why I envision the Astros will offer him a fat contract this offseason and he will accept. Wouldn’t you rather, if given the offer, pitch along Justin Verlander instead of a young and needs-more-experience Marco Gonzales?
Even though Zack Wheeler is no Gerrit Cole, he is still a veteran starter and the rebuilding Mariners will need some veteran presence beside Tommy Milone (if he returns). Though Wheeler didn’t have the pleasure of playing for either Mets playoff team in ’15 and ’16 due to TJ, he has a solid resume. In his first four full seasons, he has twice won double-digit games.
In 2014 and 2018, he ranked respectively 10th and 12th in strikeouts with 187 and 179. This season he is headed to a similar path with 130 through 19 starts, ranked 7th-best so far. Also in 2018, Zack’s 3.31 ERA ranked 11th overall while hitters hit just .225 against him for 8th in the National League. And while having a strikeout pitcher is always an attractive thing, Zack posted an impressive K/9 IP rate of 9.081 in 2014. That was sixth-best in the National League, as a sophomore player! And people, his 2019 WAR ranks 0.7 points higher than Noah Syndergaard’s.
In comparison here, think of Zack Wheeler as a similar pickup to Jarrod Washburn in the 2006 offseason. Jarrod was signed to a multi-year Mariner contract. Even though he wasn’t that offseason’s splash similar to how Wheeler would be, he is a talented pitcher and is some veteran presence to have among all the youth on the Mariners.
Five months ago, Elijah Ackerman of risingapple.com wrote an article on Zack Wheeler. In it, he described how the Mets “will likely have to give him at least a four-year deal.” He also rhetorically asked, “Would Wheeler bite on a five-year deal worth 100 million?”
Probably not, but if he wants to get out of deGrom and Syndergaard’s shadow, maybe he’ll instead bite on a four-year, $100 million deal to become a Mariner.