In 2011, the New York Mets acquired a young pitcher named Zack Wheeler in a trade deadline deal with the San Francisco Giants. Eight years later, his career may come full circle.
It is often said that it takes time to see who wins and who loses a trade. At the trade deadline in 2011, the New York Mets traded a rejuvenated Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for young right-handed pitcher Zack Wheeler. Although many doubted the abilities of a (then) 34-year old battling a knee injury the previous season, Beltran put together a productive season as he led the Mets in HRs (13) and RBIs (58). His NL-leading 28 doubles earned him a nod in the 2011 All-Star Game.
Beltran’s tenure with the Giants was productive, yet very brief. A hand injury limited Beltran to 44 games where hit .323 and totaled 54 hits over 167 at bats. The Giants ultimately came up short in 2011 winning 86 games and finishing 2nd in the NL West to the Diamondbacks.
When it was all said and done, the Giants would like to have this one back. San Francisco traded their prized pitching prospect for a veteran who played in 44 games then elected free agency, all while missing out on the playoffs.
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With the Mets currently sitting at 37-44 and 11 games behind the first place Atlanta Braves, the Mets could very likely become sellers at the trade deadline and their most likely trade candidate is Wheeler.
While few people can dispute that the Mets won the trade, what has Wheeler done for the Mets since his time began in Flushing?
Wheeler currently ranks 14th in Mets history in strikeouts (639) and 21st in games started (111). He has never appeared in a postseason game for the Mets since Tommy John surgery recovery sidelined him for the entire 2015 season. On the current staff, only Jacob deGrom has started more games for the Mets and his .245 opponents’ batting average is ahead of the likes of Frank Viola and Tom Glavine.
Wheeler was virtually uninhabitable after the All-Star break in 2018 as he led all of baseball with a .168 ERA while fanning 179 batters on the season. This season has been far less kind to Wheeler; he has already allowed 14 home runs in June, matching his 2018 total and has the second-highest ERA in the starting rotation (4.69). Wheeler is still dominant in many of his starts but lacks the consistency and confidence he possessed in 2018.
Although the Metropolitans undeniably picked up a talented arm in the 2011 trade, we should examine Wheeler’s track record thus far.
Currently in his 6th major league season at age 29, Wheeler is 39-36 for his major league career. He owns a 7.5 WAR for his career, a mark which deGrom surpassed last season alone. Wheeler has never made an All-Star team, has never been in the running for any major award, and has never pitched a single inning in the postseason. This is all for a pitcher who was selected 6th overall (ahead of Mike Trout) in the 2009 MLB Draft and was ranked as a top-10 prospect in baseball.
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Met fans should be grateful for all of the contributions made by Wheeler. While it remains possible they re-sign him this offseason, the trade deadline looms. It looks as though this trade has come full circle and Wheeler’s time in Queens may come to an end soon.