Constructing a Mets trade with the Astros involving Zack Wheeler
By Jordan Leopold
The Houston Astros are one of several teams who could use Zack Wheeler. With other needs and some intriguing prospects, I look to construct a fair deal they could make with the New York Mets.
After a weekend in which the New York Mets lost three extra-inning games to the San Francisco Giants, it has become increasingly obvious that they will likely miss the 2019 playoffs. Rather than standing pat at the deadline, they would greatly benefit from changing their usual ways and trading talent that could help current contenders win now.
Recently, the Mets have traded the likes of Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, and Lucas Duda, among others, yet have received little to nothing in return for each player.
Trading Noah Syndergaard amidst a down year wouldn’t yield a strong return and should be seen as a cornerstone to the franchise despite failing to break out. Syndergaard is only 26 years old, just 2 years older than Nolan Ryan when the Mets infamously traded him to the Angels in 1971 for a trade package including SS Jim Fregosi. As we know, Ryan went on to throw 7 no-hitters, strikeout 5,714 batters, and win 324 games over his major league career.
Names such as Todd Frazier and Jason Vargas are likely to be dealt as they are producing in their contract years but the duo wouldn’t net the Mets enough value in minor league talent. One name who has been on the trading block for eternity is Mets RHP Zack Wheeler.
After a season where he led Major League Baseball in ERA after the All-Star break (1.68), Wheeler is currently just 6-6 on the year and has a 6.35 ERA in the month of July (2 GS). The rest of his season hasn’t fared much better; the 29-year-old has allowed more home runs already than all of last year. However, there is still plenty of reason to trade for Wheeler.
Despite his high WHIP, his walk rate has actually remained relatively low and his fastball-slider combo generated plenty of swings and misses. opponents are only hitting .264 off his slider and well below that mark on the other pitches in his repertoire (Brooks Baseball). As the trade deadline approaches, teams will likely overpay for starting pitching as done in years past. With the Giants’ recent surge, they may end up regrettably hanging on to LHP Madison Bumgarner.
With MadBum potentially off the market, the next best pitchers on the market appear to be Zack Wheeler and Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In order to maximize the value the Mets could receive for Wheeler, I have decided to pair him with another player swirling in the rumor mill. With the Houston Astros shocking lack of production their starting rotation, and their recent balk on a trade for Martin Maldonado (who was ultimately shipped to the Cubs in wake of Wilson Contreras’s injury), Houston is looking to add a pair of battery mates for the 2019 season. The deal I proposed should help out the Astros in their areas of need while giving the Mets a favorable yet realistic return of young players.
While most Mets fans would like to see OF Kyle Tucker (who would fit perfectly) or RHP Forrest Whitley, the Mets likely wouldn’t receive those prospects unless Syndergaard was involved. Even with the recent injury to Wheeler, the NY Post’s Mike Puma writes that Wheeler should still generate trade interest:
"A club source indicated there is belief within the organization that despite the injury setback, the Mets can still get a solid return for Wheeler — who is eligible for free agency after the season."
The Mets would receive RHP J.P. Bukauskas, who is currently the 5th ranked Astros prospect according to MLB.com. The former 15th pick in the 2017 MLB draft has a 65-grade fastball with late-life according to scouts and offers a plus slider; he is also developing a changeup. Bukauskas has held opponents in AA to a .266 average while striking out 87 batters over 76 innings. Bukauskas owns a 5.57 ERA over 18 games (13 GS) and will have to control the walks in order to take that next step.
Garrett Stubbs seems to be a forgotten man in the Astros organization. Stubbs is currently ranked the 11th best prospect in Houston’s organization. He won the Johnny Bench Award and PAC-12 Conference defensive player of the year his senior season at USC.
Stubbs is known to have a cannon of an arm and covers more ground than the average catcher. While the power hasn’t emerged yet, perhaps the Mets could find a diamond in the rough, potentially pairing him with Tomas Nido who is already in the organization.
This move would emphasize defense; something the Mets have neglected in the past. It should be noted that Ramos has thrown out 13% of runners this season, 4th worst among MLB catchers with at least 40 starts in 2019. Stubbs has driven in 17 runs over 259 plate appearances in AAA this season and is batting .244.
Stubbs has also walked 19 times compared to 25 strikeouts in 159 plate appearances. Another major area for Stubbs to improve is hit patience at the plate against breaking pitches.
The final piece in this deal is OF Myles Straw, who has been playing shortstop for Houston with the recent injury to Carlos Correa. Straw is known to be a strong defensive outfielder with a plus throwing arm. Straw set himself apart in 2018 when he stole 70 bases across 2 minor league levels.
While most scouts give him a plus hitting tool, he lacks consistent power and only has 5 minor league home runs over 492 games. Straw is still seen as an exciting prospect and with an increase in playing time from the Astros, should open the eyes of MLB teams looking to sell at the deadline.
Straw is holding his own offensively with Houston, batting .274 with only 19 strikeouts in 88 at-bats. An eye-popping .398 OBP along with his versatility to play shortstop (as he has done recently) should have the Mets banging down Jeff Luhnow’s door.
With the health of Brandon Nimmo and Yoenis Cespedes in question and a lack of production from Juan Lagares, the Mets should jump all over the opportunity to acquire the 24-year-old speedster. Acquiring this kind of outfield talent would make the loss of traded OF Jarred Kelenic hurt slightly less.
Wheeler would slide into a formidable Astros rotation featuring Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Wade Miley at the top and would create a four-headed monster for AL contenders to fear this postseason. Ramos would provide an offensive upgrade over Robinson Chirinos, who still provides value defensively as a backup catcher.
For the first time in a long time, the Mets will finally get some value in return for their impact players.
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