Mets: Zack Wheeler will get paid next year by someone not named Wilpon
By Tim Boyle
It feels like a foregone conclusion that Zack Wheeler will make a lot of money next season and it won’t be the New York Mets writing the paychecks.
A realistic dream scenario for many New York Mets fans is to see the team stay relatively intact with some minor tweaks along the way. The team would bolster the bullpen, potentially add another bat, and bring back Zack Wheeler.
The desire to bring back Wheeler is largely due to fear that he becomes a star somewhere else. During his time in New York, he was a good pitcher, but not someone irreplaceable.
Fortunately for Wheeler’s bank account, it’s about to explode in the coming months. As a free agent starting pitcher under 30 with a ton of talent and coming off of two straight productive years, he’s an ideal second-tier name teams are looking at this winter.
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There are plenty of takeaways from the 2019 World Series. One of which is how important starting pitching is. The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros each had rotations worthy of claiming the title as the best in the league. Wheeler is the kind of arm who can push a team into the same realm. At the very least, he’s a man a pitching-hungry team could lean on to begin the process.
These positives about Wheeler do not bode well for the Mets’ plans to bring him back. All of this competition to sign him this winter will likely put him out of their price range.
As fans, we often get attached to players we’re familiar with. This is why many members of the Flushing Faithful won’t even contemplate the idea of replacing Wheeler. He’s “our guy.” Nobody else should get to enjoy him.
Unfortunately, someone else is going to get the chance beginning in 2020. The Mets are nearing the luxury tax threshold. Ownership’s unspoken goal of having around the tenth-highest payroll in the sport and not going any higher will be accomplished as they let Wheeler depart.
In a way, we can’t blame the Wilpons for moving on from Wheeler. Is he worth a possible $100+ million contract? I don’t believe he is.
Only five players in Mets history have ever received contracts worth $100 million. Two won Cy Youngs prior, two had Hall of Fame numbers, and the other is Yoenis Cespedes. Wheeler, while talented, is not going to join this company.
The Mets have a lot of cash invested in their starting rotation between Jacob deGrom and the raises for Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz. Financially, it makes sense to expect them to use the other spot on someone getting paid much less. Logically, this shouldn’t stop them.
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Hometown discounts are still possible in today’s MLB world of nine-digit contracts. In those cases, a team needs to come dangerously close to matching the highest offer. In this case, it’s not happening with Wheeler and what the highest bidder will offer.