Mets: Zack Wheeler is their best soon-to-be free agent trade chip in years

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 26: Zack Wheeler #45 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Citi Field on May 26, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 26: Zack Wheeler #45 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Citi Field on May 26, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The New York Mets have yet to determine their trade deadline fate. If they become sellers, Zack Wheeler will become the franchise’s best soon-to-be free agent to deal in years.

I’m not saying the New York Mets will sell at this year’s trade deadline. However, I’m also not committed to a period of buying either.

The team has a big challenge ahead of them to finish June with an overall season record of .500. If they repeat the trade deadline sales from the past two seasons, they’re going to go into it with the best trade chip they’ve had in a long time.

Zack Wheeler may not be the most appealing player on the Mets. Strictly looking at soon-to-be free agents from past seasons, he is far better than recent ones the team has dealt away ahead of the deadline.

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In 2017, the summer fire sale involved moving Lucas Duda, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, and a few other players. In return, the Mets didn’t get much back.

If you’re familiar with these players, you can see why. They’re the prototypical rental players past their prime with little to offer. They are the players you fill your holes with—not the ones you build around. At best, teams acquiring them at the trade deadline hope for a big pinch hit.

The story was quite similar in 2018. With fewer upcoming free agents to deal, the Mets traded Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera before July 31.

The difference between all of these men and Wheeler is the position they play. Wheeler is the first productive starting pitcher they have had in a very long time ready to enter the free agent market. I think we’ve all accepted a life where he doesn’t come back in 2020. Even if he does, the Mets could always trade him. If they’re out of the postseason chase, they must.

Coincidentally, the last big player with an expiring contract the team traded in the weeks leading up to the deadline is the man they moved to acquire Wheeler. On July 28, 2011, he swapped players with Carlos Beltran in a trade with the San Francisco Giants. By far, this is one of the best deadline trades in a sell year the Mets have made in recent years—and perhaps ever—when looking exclusively at the talent of the player they received.

The Mets missed plenty in recent deadline deals. In many of them, all they got were relief pitchers. Drew Smith is my absolute favorite of the bunch and he’s out for all of 2019. Go figure.

As for others, they’ve been mostly unimpressive in the major leagues. Others have yet to reach the pinnacle of professional baseball.

Wheeler gives the Mets a potential trade chip they cannot miss on. Much like the trade that brought him to New York, I think I would prefer quality of quantity. Land a big prospect instead of two or three mid-level ones. Get a guy you’re far more certain will actually have a permanent spot in the big leagues.

A potential hiccup in selling Wheeler is his 4.87 ERA after 14 starts. He can’t blame it on pitching in a hitter’s park either like a member of the Colorado Rockies might. Wheeler is getting blasted with home runs and after his loss versus the New York Yankees, now leads the league in earned runs allowed with 48.

On the plus side, he does eat innings. In May, Wheeler went at least six frames in each of his starts. In fact, of the 14 starts, he only failed to log 6 total innings three times. Any turnaround as far as keeping runners from touching home would go a long way toward re-establishing value.

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Of course, we would all prefer to see them hold onto Wheeler for an amazing pennant chase in the final two months. My fingers are crossed, hopeful a month from now we’re talking about the second straight phenomenal second half from Wheeler.