Zack Wheeler Rumors

Heyman’s Latest: Hamels/Jays, Lucroy, Baez, Correa, Alvarez

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has published the latest installment of his weekly Inside Baseball column, and he kicks it off by reporting that the Blue Jays have inquired on Cole Hamels. However, Heyman hears that Hamels was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to allow a trade to Toronto, which is a blow for both clubs. The Jays desperately need help in both the rotation and the bullpen, and the Phillies, Heyman notes, would love to get their hands on young pitchers with the upside of Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. The Blue Jays have a bit of financial leeway after going with inexpensive options at second base, center field and left field, and Heyman writes that the Blue Jays are expected to look at other potential front-line starters this summer as they become available. (He speculatively mentions Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir, though neither’s available just yet.) Additionally, Heyman notes that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ job is safe, as GM Alex Anthopoulos has a strong relationship with the skipper and recognizes that the team’s problems are roster-related and shouldn’t be pinned on Gibbons.

Some more highlights from the column, though it’s worth a read in its entirety…

  • The Braves are said to be disappointed in the play of Christian Bethancourt, even from a defensive standpoint, and recently inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy. However, Atlanta executives were told by the Brewers that Lucroy isn’t available at this time. That the Brewers wouldn’t trade Lucroy isn’t a shock; he’s owed a very affordable $4MM in 2016 with a $5.25MM option for the 2017 season, so even if the team can’t quickly right the ship, he’d still have enormous trade value at the 2016 trade deadline. More interesting, to me, is that the Braves would so quickly look for an upgrade over Bethancourt and that they’re acting somewhat as buyers. Lucroy, of course, could be called a long-term piece that would be around to help the team when its rebuild is closer to completion. However, acquiring him would surely require the sting of parting with some of the key components of that rebuild.
  • Some rival execs feel that the Cubs are willing to part with Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach in trades, in part because each was drafted under the previous administration and is not held in as high a regard by the new front office. Each player comes with issues, however, as Baez is trying to cut down on his swing and improve his contact skills, while a scout described first baseman Vogelbach as a “30 fielder” to Heyman (in reference to the 20-80 scouting scale).
  • There are members of the Astros‘ field staff that want to see Carlos Correa with the team right now, but Houston will likely keep him in the minors for another month or so in order to lessen the risk of Correa achieving Super Two status. I’ll add that the Astros will have a more legitimate claim that Correa still needs minor league time than other teams in similar situations have had in the past. Correa is still just 20 years old and has only nine games of experience at the Triple-A level, though he’s continued his brilliant work at the plate there, hitting .326/.362/.558 with a pair of homers. Also of interest to Astros fans — or to fans of teams needing outfield help — the Astros are on the lookout for starting pitching upgrades, and outfield prospect Preston Tucker “seems to be available.” Tucker recently made his MLB debut and has a .963 OPS through 34 plate appearances to go along with a strong minor league track record.
  • Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez has been pitching for years with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, according to Heyman. Some have described it as a “90 percent tear,” but he’s been able to pitch effectively in spite of the issue. Alvarez wouldn’t be the first to pitch through a UCL tear; Ervin Santana and Adam Wainwright are both recent examples of pitchers who pitched for many seasons with partially torn UCLs. Wainwright ultimately underwent Tommy John, though Santana’s is said to have healed and is no longer an issue. In another Marlins-related note, Heyman hears that pitching coach Chuck Hernandez is “under the microscope” with both Jarred Cosart and Steve Cishek struggling greatly in 2015.
  • Brewers starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have little trade value due to their 2015 struggles, but Lohse’s lesser financial commitment and superior clubhouse reputation give him more value. The team is reluctant to trade not only Lucroy, but shortstop Jean Segura as well. The Brewers are a bit more open to dealing Carlos Gomez than that pair, as Gomez is closer to free agency (he’s controlled through 2016).
  • The Mets remain reluctant to trade any of their top arms, as they’ve seen on multiple occasions how quickly Tommy John surgery or other injuries can thin out a club’s depth. (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz have all had TJ in their careers.) The Mets are also not rushing to find a shortstop, but they have indeed been “all over the map” in terms of trade possibilities with the Cubs.
  • Coco Crisp‘s neck injury is apparently quite serious, and there’s a fear that the oft-injured Athletics outfielder will ultimately require surgery that could bring his season to an end.
  • The Blue Jays would still like to extend both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but there have yet to be serious discussions with either slugger’s camp. Both players are controlled through the end of the 2016 season.

Minor Moves: Smith, Wheeler, Robinson

Here are the latest minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Braves signed southpaw Greg Smith to a minor league deal, as announced by the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett.  Smith posted a 4.51 ERA over 40 starts (229 1/3 innings) with the A’s and Rockies from 2008-10, and he has spent the last four seasons with the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Phillies farm systems, plus a short stint with an independent team.
  • The Mets announced that righty Zack Wheeler has been moved from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL.  The move creates a 40-man roster spot for catching prospect Kevin Plawecki, whose contract was officially purchased by the club today.  Wheeler underwent Tommy John surgery in late March and will miss the entire 2015 season.
  • The Diamondbacks have signed outfielder Trayvon Robinson to a minor league contract, as announced by the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.  Robinson signed a minor league deal with the Padres in December but was released on April 2, and he signed his deal with the Ducks just over a week ago.  Robinson posted a .602 OPS over 319 plate appearances with the Mariners in 2011-12 and hasn’t been back to the majors since, spending the last two seasons in the Orioles and Dodgers farm systems.

Mets Notes: Harvey, Duda, Lagares, Wheeler

The Mets will keep Matt Harvey on a rough limit of 90 pitches for his April starts, manager Terry Collins told reporters (including Adam Rubin of ESPN New York) following Harvey’s final Spring Training start today.  The club’s plans to be fairly cautious with Harvey in his return from Tommy John surgery haven’t changed, GM Sandy Alderson said, despite how Harvey has dominated opposing batters in spring competition.  Harvey threw four shutout innings of work today to drop his Spring Training ERA down to 1.19 over 22 2/3 innings.  Here’s the latest on the Amazins….

  • It seems “unlikely” the Mets and Lucas Duda will reach agreement on an extension before Opening Day, a source familiar with the talks tells CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.  Another source says there has been “not a lot of movement” in negotiations, and both the player and team have set the opener as the unofficial deadline for talks.
  • Alderson told Adam Rubin that “I think that’s hard to say” when asked to comment on the progress of the Duda negotiations.  “There will be resolution by Monday, one way or the other,” Alderson said.
  • The Mets’ four-year, $23MM extension with Juan Lagares is “pretty much a can’t-lose” deal for the team “even if he never gets better than he was in 2014,” Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines.  I agree with Sherman that Lagares’ new deal is a pretty reasonable price to pay for elite-level center field defense.
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News also likes the Lagares contract, and between that extension and recent trades for Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres, Martino feels the Mets are entering the season on a positive note.
  • Zack Wheeler also had surgery to repair a torn tendon in addition to his Tommy John procedure this winter, so the right-hander need more time than usual to recover, he told Newsday’s Marc Carig.  The combination of the two procedures could push his return back to June or July 2016, though Wheeler hesitated to cite a firm date this early in his rehab process.


NL East Notes: Wheeler, Howard, Nationals

The Mets have announced that starter Zack Wheeler underwent successful Tommy John surgery today, as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets. New York will hope that it is all uphill from here for the well-regarded young righty. While the team certainly appears to have ample rotation depth now and in the future, he still figures as a key cog as the organization looks to ramp up into contention.

Here’s the latest from the NL East:

  • Ryan Howard‘s previously-reported list of teams to which he cannot block a deal did not seem to provide him with much leverage; rather, as I noted at the time, it seemed to be motivated by other considerations. That is, in fact, the case, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports: Howard replaced his formerly NL-heavy slate with American League clubs in an effort to help the Phillies find him a new home. Of course, that has yet to occur, though Howard has shown some promise this spring and could be a worthwhile mid-season addition for the right team.
  • While much attention has focused on the potential free agent departure of Nationals starters Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister (among other players), Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes that the club believes it has more than adequate pitching talent percolating through its system. Of course, it also seems worth noting that the Nationals could conceivably use those arms not only to fill in the big league rotation and provide depth, but also to acquire replacement pieces elsewhere via trade. GM Mike Rizzo has done just that in the recent past, dealing young pitching to acquire players like Denard Span, Doug Fister, and Jose Lobaton.

Injury Notes: Henderson, Wheeler, Rasmus, Wieters

Yesterday, we learned the Brewers had re-assigned reliever Jim Henderson to minor league camp. Milwaukee has rescinded the decision and will instead keep him in major league camp, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The move was made for a couple reasons. The Brewers will place him on the disabled list and can backdate the move. It also allows Henderson to maintain “continuity of treatment” with the major league strength and conditioning team. Though he remains in major league camp, he will only pitch in minor league games for the remainder of spring.

  • The Mets didn’t discuss Zack Wheeler in trade scenarios this offseason because they believed any deal would be scuttled upon reviewing medicals, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Rival executives were left with an impression that Wheeler was part of a protected core. In actuality, a torn tendon, multiple MRIs, and a PRP injection led the Mets to believe a deal was out of reach. With this information in hand, it’s easy to understand why the club kept Dillon Gee on hand as a sixth starter.
  • Angels pitcher Cory Rasmus will miss the next six to eight weeks with a core injury, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The injury, which has bothered him on and off for years, will require surgery. Rasmus was used as a swingman last season, pitching to a 2.57 ERA with 9.16 K/9 and 2.73 BB/9. He was expected to contribute to the bullpen.
  • While tests have come back clean, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is expected to open the season on the disabled list, writes Mark Townsend of Yahoo.com. The club is eyeing a 10-month rehab program, which would have Wieters return to action in mid-April. Manager Buck Showalter says hitting negatively affects his rehab, so he won’t be used as a designated hitter while he recovers.

Zack Wheeler To Have Tommy John Surgery

FRIDAY: Wheeler will have Tommy John surgery on Tuesday or Wednesday, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin tweets. The surgery will be performed by Mets team doctor David Altchek.

MONDAY 10:26am: Alderson told reporters, including Marc Carig of Newsday, that the team’s belief is that Wheeler has suffered a full tear of the ligament (Twitter link). If that’s the case, it would only solidify the likelihood that he will undergo Tommy John surgery.

9:07am: An MRI taken on his right elbow revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament for Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler, the team announced this morning. It seems almost inevitable then, that Wheeler is headed for Tommy John surgery, although he will first receive a second opinion, according to the team.

Losing Wheeler for the season would be a significant blow to a Mets team that many, including myself, have expected to contend for a Wild Card berth into the playoffs. The Mets projected to have a rotation of Wheeler, a healthy Matt Harvey, 2014 Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon. However, with Wheeler likely shelved, it’ll be Dillon Gee sliding from the bullpen back into the starting rotation. The Mets have to be glad that they hung onto Gee, who was mentioned in trade rumors all offseason but never dealt.

Alderson’s acquisition of Wheeler — then a highly touted prospect with the Giants — in exchange for a half season of Carlos Beltran, has been hailed as one of the GM’s best moves, and with good reason. Wheeler surfaced with the Mets as a 23-year-old in 2013 and turned in 100 solid innings, and he reached 185 1/3 innings last year. Over his two seasons in Queens, Wheeler has worked to a 3.50 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 50 percent ground-ball rate. Armed with a 95mph fastball and a pair of above-average breaking pitches, there was an expectation that Wheeler could take a step forward in 2015, creating a formidable trio atop the Mets’ rotation, alongside Harvey and deGrom.

From a service time standpoint, Wheeler will gain a full year of big league service on the 60-day DL, if he is to miss the entire year, but he should fall shy of Super Two distinction, as he’ll have two years, 98 days of service entering the 2016 season. The Mets control him through the 2019 season, but that does little to soften the blow of his absence from the rotation this coming season.

Top prospect Noah Syndergaard, who has seen his own name surface in trade rumors over the past year, figures to be even more untouchable now, as the likelihood that he pitches in the Mets’ rotation at some point in 2015 has now increased.


Mets Notes: Alderson, Collins, Wheeler, Matusz

Sandy Alderson’s new biography (Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets, by Steve Kettmann) contains several interesting background tidbits about many of Alderson’s major transactions as the Mets general manager.  ESPN’s Adam Rubin runs down some of the highlights, including some alternate trades for Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey, extension talks with Jose Reyes and even a flirtation with Robinson Cano last winter.  The book also includes comments from Alderson about the Mets payroll situation, which led to Alderson clarifying his position last week.  Here’s some more from the Amazins…

  • Perhaps the most timely revelation from the book was that last August, Alderson told Kettmann that Terry Collins’ chances of returning as the Mets’ manager in 2015 stood at roughly 51 percent and “Frankly, for me, that percentage has been eroding.”  Alderson was upset that the Mets’ patience at the plate seemed to be dropping, but a meeting with the club’s hitters apparently saved Collins from being fired.  Collins is entering the last year of his contract and he’s been rumored to be on the hot seat unless the Mets take a step forward to contention.
  • While Zack Wheeler was indeed pitching through pain last season, it was due to a torn tendon in his right elbow, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.  Nothing was thought to be wrong with Wheeler’s UCL until last week’s examination revealed that the right-hander had suffered a tear and would need to undergo Tommy John surgery.
  • B.B. Abbott, Wheeler’s agent, told reporters (including Dan Martin of the New York Post) that he has “zero issues whatsoever with how the Mets handled Zack last year or in the offseason.
  • The Mets are only one of several teams interested in Orioles southpaw Brian Matusz, a scout tells Adam Rubin (Twitter link).  As teams make roster cuts over the next two weeks, however, “there should be plenty of lefties that shake loose of lesser ilk.”  Needless to say, these other left-handed relief options would presumably also come at a much lower price tag than Matusz’s $3.2MM salary.
  • The scout also suggests that Marlins left-hander Andrew McKirahan is better than any of the Mets’ internal lefty relievers and would be a good addition to the team if Miami cuts him.  McKirahan was selected by the Fish in last December’s Rule 5 draft and must spend the entire season on the Marlins’ 25-man roster or else be offered back to the Cubs.

East Notes: Cobb, Moncada, Mets

The Rays have announced that starting pitcher Alex Cobb‘s MRI has revealed that he has tendinitis in his right forearm. He will not be able to start Opening Day. Cobb’s injury is just the latest in a long string for the Rays rotation, which is also currently without Drew Smyly (shoulder), Alex Colome (pneumonia) and, of course Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery). Even before Cobb’s injury, the Rays had planned to consider minor moves to upgrade their starting pitching depth. Here’s more from the East divisions.

  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington isn’t concerned about being fired if his expensive signing of Yoan Moncada doesn’t work out, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe writes. “We understand that not everything we do is going to work out,” says Cherington. “But we feel good about the process and why we’re doing it.” As Abraham notes, the signing of the 19-year-old Moncada comes with plenty of upside, but it’s risky, too — the Red Sox have already made a series of high-profile investments (though not as high-profile or nearly as expensive as Moncada) in international players who haven’t worked out, like Jose Vinicio, Adalberto Ibarra, Juan Carlos Linares, Tzu-Wei Lin and Dalier Hinojosa.
  • The Mets didn’t anticipate Zack Wheeler‘s elbow issues would be so severe, so that wasn’t why they held onto Dillon Gee, Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes. They did, however, keep Noah Syndergaard in part because of general worries about the health of their starting pitchers, including not only Wheeler (who also had elbow discomfort last year) but also Bartolo Colon and Matt Harvey. Martino also explains why they didn’t trade Wheeler before the news that he would have to have Tommy John surgery, even though they were aware of his prior elbow trouble — they still like his upside and he’ll still be under team control when he returns.

NL East Notes: Wheeler, Braves, Lee, Halladay

ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link) lists five spring transactions that ought to occur. Among them are trades involving two veteran Phillies players — Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon. While Papelbon has been discussed quite frequently this offseason, as has fellow hurler Cole Hamels, Utley has scarcely seen his name come up in rumors (and is only just returning to action after suffering a sprained ankle). Bowden also advocates an early-career extension for Christian Yelich of the Marlins

Here’s more from the NL East:

  • Injured Mets starter Zack Wheeler dealt with rather significant elbow pain last year, as GM Sandy Alderson has indicated and Andy Martino of the New York Daily News further reports. Per Martino, the team maintains publicly and privately that Wheeler’s UCL never was a matter of concern for the team, but he details some of the developments last year that raised red flags about the young righty’s health. Of course, as Martino is right to explain, there are not only many unknown details but also plenty of medical uncertainties in the world of pitching elbows.
  • The Braves are prepared to announce a deal with Comcast involving the team’s new ballpark and mixed-use development, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. It appears that the cable company will occupy office space and provide technology services for the controversial new facility.
  • Of course, that stadium opening is still years away, and the Braves are still working to resolve numerous roster matters before the start of the upcoming season. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman updates the situation in camp, writing that Jace Peterson appears to have the inside track on a 25-man spot, if not the starting gig at second base. The team has numerous infield and outfield slots still up for grabs.
  • The Phillies have insurance on Cliff Lee‘s contract and will have a chance to recover an unknown sum for the time he is expected to miss, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. That will not match the return the team had hoped to be able to achieve if a healthy Lee had turned into an attractive mid-season trade chip, of course. As part of his rest and rehab plan, Lee will not even throw a ball for several months. While the decision not to undergo surgery was announced a mutual one between team and player, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News tweets that all doctors consulted recommended surgery and that it was Lee’s decision not to pursue that option.
  • As Lee faces the possibility of retirement, former teammate Roy Halladay says he is interested in pursuing sports psychology as a second act, as Zolecki reports.

Mets Links: Wheeler, Montero, Gee, Collins

The Mets found out this morning that Zack Wheeler has a fully torn ulnar collateral ligament, which almost certainly means he’s headed for Tommy John surgery. As Mets fans deal with that difficult news, here’s the latest on the team…

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post is told that Montero is being considered for the fifth spot in the rotation despite Gee’s preference not to pitch out of the bullpen (Twitter links). The likelier outcome is still that Gee lands in the rotation, as the team doesn’t want to “totally lose” Gee, but Alderson wouldn’t come out and say who would step into the vacated spot.
  • ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin has a full story with quotes from Alderson as well as teammate Michael Cuddyer. The fresh MRI, according to Alderson, was scheduled after the area of pain in Wheeler’s elbow increased in size. Alderson called the finality of the situation and the fact that Wheeler won’t have to manage the type of pain he felt last season in future years a silver lining.

Earlier links

  • GM Sandy Alderson said that the Mets had been forewarned that Wheeler’s elbow was an ongoing concern and the team would have to “manage his medical condition over the course of the season,” via Newsday’s Marc Carig (Twitter links). That would perhaps explain why the Mets weren’t exactly in a rush to trade Dillon Gee, Bartolo Colon or Jon Niese this offseason.
  • While Gee seems the likeliest option to step into the rotation, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron writes that he’s not the best option for the Mets to replace Wheeler. Rather, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz all project to be superior to Gee this offseason and should perhaps be ahead of him on the list of replacements. However, none of that group is making any significant money this season, whereas Gee is earning $5.3MM, which likely plays a role in any potential decision the team will make.
  • Manager Terry Collins’ 2016 club option is valued at $1.2MM, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Heyman feels that the Mets should exercise the option now as a show of good faith, though it’s perhaps more likely that Collins’ 2016 fate will be at least in part determined by the performance of a 2015 club that will still be expected to take a step forward even with the loss of Wheeler.
  • For those who didn’t see earlier today, the Mets have reportedly been scouting Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz in the wake of Josh Edgin‘s elbow injury.