Rather than trade Zack Wheeler for a lesser return than they wanted, the New York Mets kept the soon-to-be free agent. Fortunately, they have options on where to go from here.
I thought for sure Zack Wheeler was getting traded before 4pm on July 31. If Zack Greinke wasn’t with the Houston Astros right now, I believe the New York Mets would have pulled off a deal with them to send the soon-to-be free agent righty to down to the Lone Star State. Because any packages they or anyone else offered the Mets was apparently not good enough, the baseball team in Flushing decided to hold onto Wheeler for the remainder of the year.
Like Indiana Jones’ selection of the Holy Grail in The Last Crusade, they have chosen wisely.
Trading Wheeler was a necessity only if the Mets intended to play out the year and cut their losses for 2019. Their recent success has them convinced a playoff run is possible although the odds are still not in their favor. More importantly, they had another reason to keep Wheeler beyond this year. We can thank the qualifying offer for this.
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At the end of the year, the Mets have an opportunity to offer Wheeler a one-year deal which should come out to somewhere around $18 million. It’s a large sum for one year of control. Wheeler is a guy who could conceivably cash in on it.
In the first few years of the qualifying offer, few players accepted it. With the price tag increasing each year, many have.
After the 2016 season, New York offered this MLB franchise tag to Neil Walker. For $17.2 million, he agreed to come back for another year. The Mets ended up trading him to the Milwaukee Brewers later that summer when things didn’t work out in the standings.
For Wheeler, the situation is a little different. He’s having an okay year for New York and should draw interest in free agency. However, teams have been smarter about signing free agents at the risk of losing a draft pick. It was a big reason why Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel went unsigned until after the 2019 Draft. The same thing could happen to Wheeler, putting him in a position to accept a qualifying offer from the Mets even more.
In a way, the Mets have pinned Wheeler into a tough decision. They’ve also increased their ability to make a couple of decisions on their own. If Wheeler declines, they still have four solid MLB starters. If he accepts, they may always choose to trade Marcus Stroman or Noah Syndergaard for help at another spot.
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Either way, the Mets were wise to take a knee and let the clock run out on a potential Wheeler deal. There was no need to risk a fumble or interception when they have months to figure out exactly what they want this rotation to look like. They’ve got options and they get the ball in their hands to start the second half.