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Mets were right to move on from Zack Wheeler but still need a replacement

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 04: Starting pitcher Zack Wheeler #45 of the New York Mets throws to a Washington Nationals batter in the first inning at Nationals Park on September 04, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 04: Starting pitcher Zack Wheeler #45 of the New York Mets throws to a Washington Nationals batter in the first inning at Nationals Park on September 04, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Former New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler will play for the Philadelphia Phillies beginning in 2020. At the price he received, the Mets were right to move on. However, they still need to bolster the roster with an equal or greater player.

Zack Wheeler is an interesting ballplayer. Statistically, he doesn’t quite measure up to the five-year $118 million contract he received from the Philadelphia Phillies. If you watched him at all with the New York Mets over the past two seasons and even in his early years, you may think of him a little differently.

Wheeler isn’t Jacob deGrom, but he sure is a talented starting pitcher on the right side of 30. It makes sense why teams would overbid for him. Players like this aren’t often available in free agency.

Unfortunately for Mets fans who grew attached to Wheeler, he’ll suit up for a new ball team beginning in 2020. The Mets, who never really seemed in the running to bring him back to Flushing this winter, shouldn’t be at fault for letting him go.

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However, the more important aspect of this is that they must have a better plan in place. Can I see a show of hands from those who think they do?

Two years ago, there was nobody on this planet who would have guessed Wheeler would be one of the hottest free agents in the winter of 2019-2020. After missing all of 2015 and 2016 due to injury, he returned in 2017 for 17 starts. The results were far from promising with Wheeler going just 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA.

Wheeler pitched his way into prominence in 2018, specifically with an awesome second half. He wasn’t nearly as amazing in 2019 but still did plenty to attract attention from everyone looking to boost their rotation.

With the belief that his best days may still be ahead of him, the Phillies were willing to pay a large toll to bring him to town.

Back in Flushing, there are plenty of questions for the Mets to answer. How will they fill the Wheeler void?

We’ll have to assume they aren’t going to make a big splash in free agency for a starter of equal value. Otherwise, why not bring back a guy they were familiar with?

Instead, we can expect the Mets to go a cheaper route and either pick up a player via trade or sign a veteran hoping to rebound. This year’s crop of free agent starting pitchers is deep so there’s no excuse to skip out on one—unless of course they move Seth Lugo to the rotation and go for broke spending like madmen to turn the bullpen into an unstoppable force. Can we get Steve Cohen in the owner’s chair already?

Early offseason Mets rumors haven’t been too inspiring. Their focus has been on adding a backup catcher, making a trade for a center fielder, and lowering the payroll by dumping a salary.

While others are looking to build, the Mets are scrambling to get back to where they were at the end of the year. The roster is still a talented one, but without some big additions, they aren’t going to move forward in the standings.

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The loss of Wheeler certainly hurts. Worse, however, is the lack of trust we have that this team will do anything about it. The Steve Cohen Era may not make its mark until next offseason. In the interim, we will likely endure a season where the rotation takes a step backward.

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