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Zack Wheeler Rumors
C.C. Sabathia received a stem cell injection in his right knee last week and will be out of action until at least July, Yankees GM Brian Cashman tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Cashman said he has checked in with teams about trade possibilities and while “nothing has materialized,” Cashman “will keep an eye out to see if something does.” Three-fifths of the Bombers’ regular rotation is currently injured, with Ivan Nova out for the season and Michael Pineda on the DL until mid-June at the earliest.
Here’s the latest from the Yankees and Mets in this roundup of Big Apple baseball news…
- Alex Rodriguez told advisers last summer that he was considering retirement rather than go through a lengthy battle with Major League Baseball over his record PED suspension, reports Teri Thompson, Bill Madden, Michael O’Keeffe, Christian Red and Nathaniel Vinton of the New York Daily News. A-Rod was convinced to fight his suspension, however, after consulting with Desiree Perez, a New York nightclub manager affiliated with Jay Z and who also played a role in Robinson Cano signing with the Mariners. Rodriguez may have been motivated to listen to Perez in part because, as the article states, he would like to become a player agent, possibly with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports agency.
- Back when Wil Myers was still a Royals prospect, Kansas City offered him to the Mets for a trade package of Jonathan Niese and Zack Wheeler, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets. Myers, of course, ended up being the centerpiece of the five-player package the Royals sent to the Rays in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis. It’s an interesting what-if to ponder for both the Mets and Royals; Myers would’ve given the Amazins a cornerstone player in the outfield, but at the cost of two quality young arms. For K.C., Shields was the better win-now move, though he had only two years of team control and Davis has become a relief pitcher. Wheeler is controllable through the 2019 season while Niese’s five-year contract has club options that could’ve extended the deal through 2018.
- Also from Martino, he looks at some trade possibilities for the Yankees and Mets this summer. The Mets looked at LaTroy Hawkins, Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour over the winter and could explore trading for veteran closer help, plus shortstop could still be a position the Mets are looking to upgrade. As for the Yankees, they could also use shortstop help but acquiring a big name could be awkward given the awkwardness of benching Derek Jeter during his final season. A move for Diamondbacks shortstop Didi Gregorius makes sense for both New York clubs.
- Particularly in the wake of the Sabathia news, the Yankees also need starting pitching. Martino writes that while the Yankees may not have the prospect depth to attract a major trade chip, their financial resources could help them take big contracts off the hands of losing teams. Possible trade candidates in this vein could be the Diamondbacks’ Bronson Arroyo or the Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle or R.A. Dickey (if Toronto falls out of the race, that is).
- In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Paul Swydan criticizes both the Mets front office and manager Terry Collins for some transactions and personnel moves that Swydan feels “have left the Mets in an all-too-familiar middling position.”
The Mets didn't exactly dazzle fans with their signing of Chris Young but they could be planning to do something a little more exciting in the weeks to come. The Mets are among the clubs that have been connected to Nelson Cruz and they are still said to have interest in Curtis Granderson. If GM Sandy Alderson & Co. want to get in on Cruz, however, it could prove to be costly. The former Rangers outfielder is said to be seeking a four-year, $75MM deal. More out of Queens..
- Andy Martino of the New York Daily News wonders if the Mets are going to make a big splash this winter. Martino hears that the Mets were scared by the two-year, $16MM deal that Marlon Byrd landed. At the same time, the Mets have decided to hold a hard line on trading young pitchers like Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard. It's hard to see how they can land an impact bat without dealing one of their desirable impact arms. Martino adds that there is "gossip" around the Mets about GM Sandy Alderson engaging clubs in talks for three-way deals.
- Agent Chris Leible tells Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter) that client Johan Santana is now throwing from 90 feet in Florida and his shoulder feels much better. There's currently no timeline set for the one-time Mets ace to sign.
- More from B-NS, who hears from agent Mike Mosa that Tim Byrdak wants to continue pitching. Byrdak recovered from left shoulder surgery to pitch in eight games for the Mets in September. The 40-year-old has a 4.32 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 across parts of three seasons with the Mets. MLBTR's TIm Dierkes noted ten days back (via Twitter) that two clubs had asked for medicals on the southpaw.
The Nationals do not plan on making huge changes this offseason, reports Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. They will, of course, hire a new manager to replace the retiring Davey Johnson, and they'll also look for left-handed relief help, perhaps, as Comak suggests, from someone like J.P. Howell or Oliver Perez. Other than that, they're mostly happy with the roster they have. "But I think the team, as far as the core group, is set up pretty good. The core rotation and the core bullpen is set up pretty good," GM Mike Rizzo says. The Nationals could take a shot at someone like David Price of the Rays to improve their rotation, but that doesn't appear likely, given the cost it would take to get him. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- If the Mets want to contend in the NL East next year, they should think about dealing Zack Wheeler, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. For example, Martino suggests dealing Wheeler to the Rays in deal for Price might make sense if Price is willing to agree to a contract extension. Chris Sale of the White Sox might also be a possibility. Alternatively, Martino suggests the Mets could trade Wheeler for a hitter and then acquire Ervin Santana or Matt Garza as a free agent instead.
- Pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is now represented by Mark Pieper and SFX, Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal writes (on Twitter). Scott Boras was Matsuzaka's previous agent. Matsuzaka posted a 4.42 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 38 2/3 innings for the Mets in 2013.
Ryan Howard will be out of action for six-to-eight weeks following surgery to repain a torn medial meniscus in his left knee. While Howard wasn't going to be a trade candidate at the deadline (no team would touch that contract), it's possible his absence might convince the Phillies to throw in the towel on the 2013 season and become full-fledged sellers this month. Here's the latest from around the NL East…
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo discussed his team's acquisition of Scott Hairston with reporters (including MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko) today. Hairston was the Nats' top target for right-handed bench help and the club had been negotiating with the Cubs for a couple of weeks, with an eye towards getting the deal finalized before the Nationals' current series with the Phillies. Rizzo liked that Hairston was contracted through 2014 so he can be an asset to Washington next season as well.
- Rizzo also noted that the Nats could make another move before the trade deadline but it won't be anything major. "You never stop trying to improve your club, but with that said, we feel like we like the club that we have and we're certainly playing better and we'll see where it takes us from here," Rizzo said. "I don't see any type of big splashy moves that are remaining."
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs likes the Hairston trade, noting that it's the kind of shrewd low-cost move that can pay dividends if Washington ends up in the postseason.
- Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post opines that a trade package of Danny Espinosa, Ross Detwiler, Tyler Moore and Lucas Giolito might be enough for the Nationals to obtain David Price from the Rays. While that's not a bad offer, I think the Rays could score a lot more elite talent if they started shopping their ace lefty.
- Braves catcher Brian McCann finally seems to be fully healthy and has been red-hot over the last two weeks, leading David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to predict that if McCann keeps it up, he'll score a free agent contact close to Yadier Molina's five-year, $75MM deal with the Cardinals. O'Brien notes that this deal will come from an AL team that will eventually transition McCann to a DH role, which is why I'd argue that McCann's eventual contract will fall at least $10-$15MM short of Molina's deal. McCann's bat doesn't carry a $15MM average annual value if it's not coming from the catcher position, plus Molina brought elite defense and a less-checkered injury history into his new contract.
- Zack Wheeler is set to face the Giants on Wednesday, almost two years after he was dealt from San Francisco to the Mets in exchange for Carlos Beltran. ESPN New York's Adam Rubin talks to Wheeler and Giants manager Bruce Bochy about the trade, and Bochy has no regrets since his club was gunning for another World Series title.
- The Rangers would love to acquire Cliff Lee from the Phillies, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler writes, "but at this point the Phillies seem to have most people in baseball convinced that they won't trade Lee (or maybe anyone else)."
- In NL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, we shared some Marlins-related news and also some Mets items as part of a collection of New York Notes.
Zack Wheeler was in uniform, wearing No. 45, as he addressed the media today to discuss his upcoming Major League debut. The Mets have announced that the 23-year-old Wheeler will make his debut in the second game of tomorrow's doubleheader.
ESPN's Adam Rubin was among the reporters in attendance as Wheeler discussed his expectations of himself and thoughts on the team:
"I don't think I'm the savior at all. We've got great arms here, and you've got great players. We might not be doing too well right now, but I know the talent of these guys, and hopefully we can turn it around soon."
Wheeler, drafted sixth overall by the Giants in 2009, was acquired in exchange for Carlos Beltran in what could be the best move of Sandy Alderson's tenure as GM of the Mets. Beltran's contract contained a clause that prevented him from being offered arbitration at the end of the season, so Wheeler was pillaged for 44 games of Beltran's services.
Wheeler ranked as the game's No. 11 prospect prior to this season, according to Baseball America. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo ranked him eighth, and in a recently updated list of Top 25 MLB prospects from ESPN's Keith Law (Insider required), Wheeler placed 15th.
The Georgia native has fared well at Triple-A, though he hasn't exactly dominated opposing hitters. In a combined 101 2/3 innings dating back to 2012, Wheeler has a 3.72 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9. Despite the somewhat pedestrian ERA, Law writes that Wheeler has top-of-the-rotation stuff, and his peers at BA and MLB.com agree.
When he is officially promoted tomorrow, Wheeler's service clock will start, meaning he would accumulate 104 days of service time over the course of the season if he sticks on the MLB roster. Much like another top prospect who is getting the call on Tuesday — Tampa Bay's Wil Myers — Wheeler seems likely to fall just shy of the projected Super Two cutoff. If that does indeed prove to be the case, he will qualify for arbitration just three times instead of four prior to being a free agent at the end of the 2019 season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With the approximate Super Two cutoff approaching, teams figure to be less hesitant about promoting their top prospects in the near future. Here's the latest on a pair who could be making their debuts sooner rather than later…
- The Mets are targeting next Friday (June 14) for Zack Wheeler's MLB debut, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Wheeler is scheduled to make what is likely to be his final Triple-A start tonight against Tacoma. The date isn't set in stone, Rubin notes, but is a tentative goal.
- Former No. 1 overall pick and Pirates top prospect Gerrit Cole could make his first big league start as soon as Tuesday (June 11), writes MLB.com's Tom Singer. Wandy Rodriguez will be unable to make that start after exiting his previous outing with an injury, and manager Clint Hurdle said that spot was open as of right now. The Buccos have two established starters on the mend, but neither James McDonald or Charlie Morton will be prepared to make that start.
- Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes the issue a step further and says that Cole will "very likely" make his MLB debut on Tuesday (Twitter link).
A number of agents told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that they expect teams to spend more in the 2013-14 offseason than they did this past winter. "Some clubs held off spending in advance of their new national TV money last winter, knowing that payments would not start until April 2014," writes Rosenthal. Here's more from around the league…
- ESPN's Buster Olney writes that Mariano Rivera will not reconsider retiring under any circumstances (ESPN Insider required). "I don't care if I get 100 saves," Rivera told Olney. "I don't care if they offer me $50 million. That's it." Rivera picked up his 20th save tonight and has stated on multiple occasions that this will be his final season.
- Mets assistant GM John Ricco told Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News that Zack Wheeler's Major League debut isn't far off. Ricco said the front office met following Wheeler's strong outing on Saturday and discussed several possible dates. When pressed by Ackert, he wouldn't rule out Wheeler arriving within two weeks.
- Braves GM Frank Wren told Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio that he will be on the lookout for bullpen help between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline (Twitter link).
- Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal tweets that Jay-Z and other Roc Nation Sports executives met with the MLB Players Association today in New York.
The Mets are trying to find the right spot for top prospect Zack Wheeler (#7 by MLB.com, #11 by Baseball America, and #13 by ESPN's Keith Law - Insider subscription required and recommended), to make his MLB debut and are carefully monitoring the Super Two arbitration cutoff, which they believe will come after June 8, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma writes the Mets are sensitive to putting Wheeler in an optimum position to succeed in his debut with a strong preference for that to come in the series with the Cubs on June 14-16, instead of against the NL Central leading Cardinals in the previous series. The Mets front office is also wary of Wheeler, a native of Dallas, GA, making his debut against the Braves in Atlanta because of the belief the right-hander will have enough jitters pitching in the majors for the first time and won't need the added pressure of pitching in front of a large contingent from his hometown. Manager Terry Collins, meanwhile, isn't concerning himself with rumors of Wheeler's call up. "I've got enough on my plate right now," Collins told reporters including Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. "I can't keep track of everybody in the organization all the time. Certainly, I know how he pitched. We all keep saying, 'He's on the way, he's on the way, he's on the way,' but he'll pitch his way here. When that time is, I have no idea." In other news coming from the National League:
- The Mets, in the wake of being swept by the Marlins (owners of the worst record in baseball), need to contemplate whether they want to be 100-loss team with prospects gaining experience or vets annoying fans, opines ESPNNewYork's Adam Rubin on Twitter.
- Tim Lincecum, ranked seventh on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, told Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com he is committed to being a starting pitcher but is open to the idea of becoming a closer. "I’m always open. It’s just, right now I don’t want to be open to it," Lincecum said. "I’m sure if my career takes that turn, I’m definitely open to changes, especially if it’s beneficial to the team I’m playing for." Baggarly noted Lincecum chose his words carefully when he said "the team I’m playing for." A club source told Baggarly the Giants would turn Lincecum into a late-inning reliever "in a heartbeat," if they had another starting pitcher in the system ready to take his place in the rotation.
- The Dodgers are awaiting an update on Carl Crawford's left hamstring injury before deciding whether to bring up top prospect Yasiel Puig (#47 by Baseball America and #70 by MLB.com); but, it would be an upset if the outfielder isn't playing for them tomorrow, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter links). Shaikin also noted on Twitter that Puig, owner of a .313/.383/.599 slash line this season, was not in the lineup for Double-A Chattanooga for the second consecutive game.
The Yankees' Phil Hughes could be a possible free-agent fit for the Mets this winter, MLB.com's Anthony DiComo tweets. Hughes' fly-ball tendencies would make homer-suppressing Citi Field a good ballpark for him, and the Mets will have plenty of money available, DiComo argues. Hughes has a 5.51 ERA so far this year, with 8.0 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. Here are more notes from the Mets.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson says he "wouldn't say there's a timetable" for the promotion of Zack Wheeler, Fred Kerber of the New York Post reports. But it sounds like it won't be long. "I would say that if he continues to pitch well, he’d be here sometime in the near future," says Alderson. Wheeler struggled Monday for Triple-A Las Vegas against Salt Lake, allowing five runs, three earned, and two home runs in four innings while striking out four and walking three. For the season, Wheeler has a 4.13 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 while playing in the tough pitching environment of Las Vegas.
- Wheeler feels like he's "just waiting on time," the Wall Street Journal's Brian Costa writes. "I think I'm ready, but it is really not my decision." Costa notes that Wheeler's service time clock could play a role in the Mets' decision, citing potential concerns that he could become a Super Two player and become eligible for arbitration after the 2015 season. Costa also discusses comparisons between Wheeler and Matt Harvey, and notes that it will be very difficult for Wheeler's start in the majors to equal Harvey's even if Wheeler pitches brilliantly. Harvey's phenomenal start to his career has lifted him above Wheeler in status, even though Wheeler has pitched perfectly well in his own right.
The Mets have been one of baseball's worst teams thus far: they currently outpace only the Astros and Marlins with a 17-27 record. While the team's weak start hardly qualifies as a major surprise, the club certainly hoped to remain in contention and see more development from several promising youngsters. Already staring at a ten-game deficit in the NL East, attention has turned to the future …
- The future could come early for one piece of the Mets' long-term plans, as we learned yesterday that top minor league arm Zack Wheeler is firmly expected to be called up sooner rather than later. With the club hoping to avoid handing Wheeler an extra year of arbitration, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com took a look yesterday evening at different teams' projections of the "safe" date for avoiding Super Two status. He reports that the Mets appear to have an earlier target than other teams; while some executives quoted a mid-to-late June timeline, New York seems to feel comfortable with a range between early June and June 10. This leads Rubin to project that Wheeler could come up to face the Cardinals at home on June 12, or could be held back until a road start against the Cubs on the 17th.
- MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently explained the Super Two cutoff projection for players who could qualify following this season. Mets outfielder Lucas Duda is among those who figure to obtain a fourth year of eligibility.
- One major component of the Mets' current and future success, of course, is star third baseman David Wright, who signed a major extension (eight years, $138MM) over the off-season. With the team not only off to a poor start but featuring several struggling younger players, Mark Hale of the New York Post posed the question whether Wright regrets committing to New York. The 30-year-old insists that he has "zero" regrets, and believes in the vision laid out to him by GM Sandy Alderson. "As far as specifically what Sandy and I talked about and I guess the plan moving forward, a big part of that plan is pieces we have in the higher minor leagues," said Wright. "I'm disappointed in our performance as a team. I'm not disappointed in [what] I believe what the plan is going forward and what I believe this organization is capable of doing in the near future." The six-time All-Star also expressed confidence in some of the younger major league players, such as Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada, who are off to slow starts: "I've seen Ike at a ridiculously high level. I've seen Ruben be a very, very solid shortstop. … They have a track record of being able to produce at this level."
- Whatever happens the rest of the way this season, Rubin notes on Twitter that the Mets figure to flash big money after the year. In fact, the club only has $25MM committed in salary next year to two roster spots (Wright and pitcher Jon Niese), although it is also on the hook for a $5.5MM buyout of the last year of Johan Santana's deal. Its payroll has hovered in the low-$90MM range the last two years after sitting well over $100MM (and as high as $149MM) over the preceding five seasons. The Mets also have several players with arbitration eligibility, in addition to the aforementioned Duda. Tejada joins Dillon Gee, Justin Turner, and Mike Baxter as first-time eligible players, while Davis will reach his second year of arbitration along with Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, and Scott Atchison. In addition to assessing whether or not to tender contracts to its slate of arbitration-eligible players, the club should have substantial flexibility to pursue some of the top available free agents and/or take on payroll via trade.