Zack Wheeler tells SNY’s John Harper that the Mets have yet to approach him about a contract extension, adding that while’s he’s open to talks and hopes to remain with the team, any contract “would have to be right on my end” given his proximity to free agency. Harper’s piece has extensive quotes from Wheeler, who sounds earnest in his desire to stay with the Mets but not necessarily at a discounted rate with free agency on the horizon next winter. Wheeler says his representatives have pointed out to him that he’ll be among the market’s youngest starters alongside Gerrit Cole next season, which bodes well for him. Of course, it should be noted that Alex Wood is younger than both and that the market is currently set to feature some big fish who are slightly older (e.g. Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale) and substantially older but nonetheless elite (e.g. Justin Verlander).
All that said, if Wheeler can come within a stone’s throw of his utterly dominant finish to the season — 2.06 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 8.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 0.45 HR/9, 44.8 percent grounder rate over his final 100 2/3 innings — he should indeed be poised for a strong payday. And, as Harper points out, the Mets’ farm is hardly teeming with high-end prospects to replace him.
Here’s more from Queens (er… from Port St. Lucie)…
- Newsday’s David Lennon previews the Mets’ upcoming decision with first base prospect Pete Alonso (who has evidently dropped the “r” from his first name in favor of a monosyllabic moniker). The young slugger looked largely ready for a big league promotion last September, and his representatives were among the numerous agents throughout the league who decried what indeed looked to be another case of service time manipulation when Alonso did not receive an MLB call-up. With Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier ailing, though, Alonso’s bat could be all the more necessary. Meanwhile, new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and manager Mickey Callaway have indicated that a player’s destination at the end of camp will be based on merit and nothing more. If Alonso has a strong spring effort, he’d put that to the test. The Mets would only need to send him down for just over two weeks to buy an extra year of team control, though the NL East figures to be ferociously competitive in ’19, so there’s every reason for all four presumptive contenders to put forth their best rosters right off the bat come Opening Day.
- Dominic Smith chatted with Kyle Glaser of Baseball America on Tuesday and discussed changes to his offseason diet and workout programs as well as the extensive work he’s done in terms of watching video and making mechanical alterations to his swing. Once heralded as the Mets’ first baseman of the future, Smith has been leapfrogged for the time being by Alonso, though at just 23 years of age, he spoke confidently about the room for growth his youth still provides. Smith also discussed the “mixed emotions” of watching the Mets add pieces throughout the winter, explaining that the increased competition adds a level of excitement and energy to camp that hasn’t been there the past few seasons. Even after a down season in 2018, Smith is a career .300/.361/.460 hitter in 875 Triple-A plate appearances.
- Infielder T.J. Rivera, who missed the entire 2018 season following 2017 Tommy John surgery, is “having trouble getting over the hump” in his rehab from that procedure, Callaway told reporters (Twitter link via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com). The now-30-year-old Rivera is still experiencing discomfort in his elbow and doesn’t appear close to seeing action in a Grapefruit League contest, DiComo notes. While Rivera hasn’t been considered a likely factor in the team’s Opening Day infield mix anyway, the fact that he’s still not ready for game action is of more note with veterans Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier sidelined by respective knee and oblique issues. The Mets still have depth with Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, Robinson Cano, Alonso Smith and J.D. Davis as options around the infield, to say nothing of non-roster invitee Adeiny Hechavarria.