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Zack Wheeler Rumors
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.
There were plenty of headlines made in both the AL East and NL East last night, with Kevin Gausman making his Major League debut and Chase Utley hitting the 15-day disabled list. More news and rumors from baseball's Eastern divisions…
- The addition of a second wild card team in each league hurts teams such as the Braves that have early-season needs, writes ESPN's Buster Olney. Few teams are ready to pack it in and declare themselves sellers at this stage, but Atlanta could use some left-handed relief help with Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters out for the season. Olney's Insider-only piece runs down some potentially available lefties.
- The Blue Jays have selected the contract of Sean Nolin from Double-A New Hampshire and transferred J.A. Happ to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster space, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Darren Oliver hit the 15-day DL to clear a 25-man roster spot.
- The New York Post's Mike Puma cites a "high-ranking club official" as he reports that Mets top prospect Zack Wheeler should join the club in two to three weeks, barring any injury setbacks. Puma's source told him that were it not for a minor shoulder injury that caused Wheeler to miss a start, he might already be with the big league club. Jeremy Hefner is the most likely rotation casualty, Puma adds.
- The Orioles have about three weeks to make a decision on what to do with rehabbing lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, writes Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore. The Japanese lefty has yet to throw a pitch for the O's since signing a two-year, $8.15MM contract thanks to Tommy John surgery.
It was on this day in 2004 that Tom Glavine threw a complete game one-hitter in a 4-0 Mets win over the Rockies, with Glavine losing his no-hit bid with two outs in the eighth inning. Glavine's gem was one of several near-misses for the Mets in the franchise's record 8,019 games without a no-hitter before Johan Santana finally got it done on June 1 of last year.
Here's the latest from Flushing Meadows…
- There are several reasons why the Mets haven't demoted Ike Davis just yet, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. The first baseman talked the club out of sending him to Triple-A this time last year and wound up turning things around, plus the Mets aren't certain that a trip to the minors will necessarily help Davis get on track. There's also the matter of Sandy Alderson being out of town until Friday and the GM may want to be there in person to inform Davis of the decision.
- Zack Wheeler is expected to make two or three more starts in the minors and then make his Mets debut between June 6-11, a team official tells Mike Puma of the New York Post. Had Wheeler not recently missed a start due to a sore AC joint, the official says the right-hander might have already been called up. Wheeler is one of the consensus top prospects in baseball, acquired by the Mets in exchange for Carlos Beltran in a July 2011 trade with the Giants.
- Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com wonders why the Mets haven't signed more "Moneyball" type free agents who can deliver production at $2-4MM per season. Scott Hairston, Chris Capuano, Chris Young, and Scott Rice are examples of inexpensive players that have outperformed their salaries, but there have been far more misses under Alderson's watch.
MLBTR's Zach Links contributed to this post
We're still roughly one month away from the deadline to delay Super Two status for minor leaguers, at which point a flood of young talent is likely to hit the Major Leagues. Here's a look at some news on some of the game's top prospects, as ranked by Baseball America, Keith Law and Jonathan Mayo prior to the season…
- Two separate scouts told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports that the Indians' Francisco Lindor could be the best prospect in baseball by the end of the season. Lindor, a 19-year-old shortstop, reminds both scouts of Jurickson Profar thanks to excellent plate discipline, defense and ability to hit for average (Twitter links). The main question surrounding Lindor is whether or not his power will develop.
- A Mets source tells ESPN's Adam Rubin that preventing Zack Wheeler from reaching Super Two status is a priority. Rubin pegs the June 17-20 series against the division rival Braves as a likely target for Wheeler's debut. In an appearance on WFAN Radio today, GM Sandy Alderson stressed the developmental side of things, stating that they need to make sure Wheeler is ready (via Newsday's Marc Carig on Twitter).
- Oswaldo Arcia may never play another game in the minor leagues again, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. Arcia was initially called up to fill a void when Darin Mastroianni hit the disabled list, but he's hitting .299/.333/.506 with three homers thus far with the Twins. In his article, Mackey recounts a titanic opposite-field blast in a B-game by Arcia last Spring Training that grabbed the front office's attention and served as a launching pad for his career.
It is not often, perhaps, that a team improves after losing its best player. But that is precisely what happened to the Cardinals after watching all-time great first baseman Albert Pujols leave town for Anaheim, writes Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal. GM John Mozeliak says he was "down, depressed, disheartened" upon losing Pujols. Since last season, however, the team has received just as much production as Pujols has given the Angels, and at a much lower cost (now and in the future). Meanwhile, money that might otherwise have gone to Pujols was used to ink highly productive players like Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. Of course, the Cards tried to keep Pujols, though they were not willing to exceed the $200MM barrier to do so. Mozeliak recalls conferring with St. Louis owner Bill Dewitt Jr., who declined the opportunity to bid whatever amount necessary to keep the franchise cornerstone. Says Mozeliak: "In the end, it came down to business discipline versus emotionally driven negotiation." Even before Pujols's injury-addled start to 2013, the Cardinals looked smart for sticking to their position.
Here are a few other notes from around the National League:
- Brian McCann has just begun a season that many believe will be his last in a Braves uniform, but he is focused on the present, writes Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. While the slugging catcher and his surgically-repaired shoulder are being watched closely by potential new employers, McCann claims that he is not thinking about the future. "I think when you get ahead of yourself is when you get in trouble." For now, McCann says, "I'm worried about playing baseball. … I'm worried about helping this team win. I'm worried about getting my shoulder stronger every day. And I'm in a good place."
- Mets officials appear to be anticipating the call-up of top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler sooner rather than later, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. One official said that Wheeler would arrive in New York by June 1 "at the latest," while another called that date "a little aggressive." Martino says that the team genuinely does not appear to be angling to keep Wheeler from achieving Super Two status, but instead intends to promote him when it feels he is ready.
- Dodgers president Stan Kasten apologized to fans for the team's less-than-inspiring start to the year, but said that the club was planning to stay the course. As Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports, Kasten claims not to be contemplating any immediate, major moves. Kasten did continue to emphasize the Dodgers' seemingly endless, but arguably aimless, payroll flexibility: "We can do whatever we feel makes sense in the long term and short term."
- The Cubs' sabermetric focus has not only trickled down from the front office to the playing field, but according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune has produced some wise decisions. Specifically, the Cubs look smart for declining to pursue Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Sullivan says the team has been better in the short term, at least for the time being, without the expensive stars. More importantly, the club maintained roster flexibility and youth by choosing to go with the promising Anthony Rizzo at first and a veteran platoon in right field.
Earlier today, Marc Hulet took a look at the prospects involved in this offseason's Blue Jays/Marlins and Blue Jays/Mets blockbuster trades. If that's not enough Mets coverage for you, here's more on the Amazins for your Thursday afternoon…
- Matt Meyers of ESPNNewYork.com wonders if the Mets might come to regret their refusal to include Zack Wheeler in a Justin Upton trade this winter. Wheeler could obviously develop into a serious talent, but Meyers notes that Upton is already a team-controlled, established star at a position of great need for the Mets.
- The Mets have issues, but manager Terry Collins isn't one of them, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The soon-to-be 64-year-old is in the final year of his deal and there has been speculation that he may not be back in 2014.
- Heyman also writes that playing for the Mets is a dream come true for John Buck, who has surprisingly been the best player involved in this offseason's blockbuster Blue Jays trades. Buck grew up in Utah aspiring to one day play for a New York team and has now improbably reached that goal. Even more unlikely, he has done so alongside one of his youth-league teammates — Brandon Lyon.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
The Mets "retain an unfilled craving for a marquee outfielder," writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, and are monitoring superstars such as Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins and Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies. One Mets person told Martino "there is heat there," in regard to the team having a preliminary discussion with the Marlins about Stanton. Still, Martino is unsure whether GMs Sandy Alderson and Larry Beinfest have discussed the powerful right fielder.
To acquire four years of Stanton, the Mets would likely have to part with their two best prospects, pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Travis D'Arnaud. An associate of Alderson's told Martino the GM "did not have any extra attachment to those players, simply because he traded for them."
According to Martino, the Mets debated using Wheeler to get Justin Upton or Wil Myers, during the Winter Meetings. They also considered asking for the Dodgers' Andre Ethier in an R.A. Dickey deal, and this spring checked in on the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano. So, it appears the Mets' long-term interest in improving the outfield runs the gamut, from the game's best young stars to overpaid veterans. The Mets were willing to increase payroll to the $125MM range last winter for the right players, writes Martino.
Keep in mind that no deals are close, and the idea that Stanton or CarGo could become available this year is speculation.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland is excited about Justin Verlander's extension and the possibility it could keep Verlander in Detroit his entire career, MLB.com's Adam Berry reports. "I think it was obviously a great situation for him. I think it's a great situation for the organization. I think it's a great situation for the fans," says Leyland. "He's been with the Tigers for going on his eighth year, [and he could stay] conceivably 15 years or maybe 16. That's pretty much a whole career. I think that's got a nice ring to it."
- The Mets should consider promoting top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, and should soon begin thinking about signing him to a long-term deal, David Lennon of Newsday.com argues. Promoting Wheeler to start the season, rather than delaying his service-time clock by starting him off in the minors, might show that the Mets are taking the 2013 season seriously, Lennon suggests. Once Wheeler is in the majors, Lennon argues that the landscape of the game (with teams signing their young stars left and right) suggests that the Mets will consider signing Wheeler long-term.
- Kevin Gregg of the Dodgers is still bothered that he didn't receive a major-league contract this offseason, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon reports. Gregg posted a 4.95 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 for the Orioles in 2012. "The way last year ended, the way the offseason unfolded, you're not a competitor if you don't have a little fire to show your abilities," says Gregg. Gregg has gotten good results this spring, but the Dodgers have a very crowded pitching staff, and might not have space for him.