Wheeler comes in shy of the $1MM projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, although the unique circumstances surrounding his health make him a tricky player to project. Wheeler has undeniable talent and looked to be emerging as an excellent long-term rotation cog for the Mets when he tossed 285 1/3 innings of 3.50 ERA ball from 2013-14. However, he underwent Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2015 and missed the entire 2016 season due to lingering complications in his recovery. This winter marked his first trip through the arbitration process, and he remains controllable through the 2019 season.
The Mets are planning on Wheeler returning to health in 2017, though it’s not known exactly how heavily his arm can be depended upon. Now 26 years old, Wheeler is just one of many talented Mets arms that carries significant injury question marks. Matt Harvey underwent surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome this past summer (and has a Tommy John procedure under his belt as well), while Jacob deGrom had surgery to repair the ulnar nerve in his right arm and Steven Matz underwent surgery to remove bone spurs in his left elbow (to say nothing of left shoulder issues that plagued him late in the year as well). Even ace Noah Syndergaard, who didn’t require any surgery or miss any time this year, was said to be pitching through a small spur in his own elbow.
As it stands, Wheeler could join that quartet in New York’s 2017 rotation, although there’s also been some talk of him working out of the bullpen as he eases back into the rigors of a Major League pitching regimen. If that’s the case, the Mets have a number of alternatives in the fifth spot of the rotation, headed by right-handers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Right-hander Gabriel Ynoa made his big league debut last year as well, and former top prospect Rafael Montero remains a depth option. Southpaw Sean Gilmartin, too, has plenty of experience starting, although he’s worked almost exclusively as a reliever in the Majors.