Mets righty Zack Wheeler got back on the mound today, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo was among those to report on Twitter. Though he only threw 13 pitches, and did so from the slope of the mound rather than the rubber, it’s a notable sign for a significant potential New York trade chip.
When we put up MLBTR’s ranking of the top sixty trade deadline candidates last week, we had Wheeler in the third slot. The live-armed hurler hasn’t turned in an impressive earned run average this year (4.69) but otherwise looks like much the same pitcher who was so impressive in 2018.
Unfortunately, the Mets’ already gloomy season took another turn for the worse when Wheeler promptly came down with a shoulder impingement. He has been on the injured list since. Though the team has generally put out optimistic vibes, there’s no shortage of uncertainty as to his trade status with the deadline just a dozen days off.
It seems the major test for Wheeler, a free agent at season’s end, will come in the next few days. Assuming he recovers well from today’s limited session, Wheeler will likely be tasked with a full pen session. If all checks out at that point, per DiComo, the righty could be ready to start a big league game by the middle of next week.
If that timeline holds, Wheeler would theoretically be able to make two starts before July 31st. That ought to give interested teams enough time to get comfortable with his health and get a sense for the current status of his arsenal. Whether there’ll be any impact on Wheeler’s value remains to be seen. The team still believes it can procure “something decent” in a trade, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets.
If Wheeler isn’t able to make it back before the deadline for some reason, it’s still possible he could be dealt. But it’s quite possible the return wouldn’t be sufficient to prompt a move. The Mets can always hold on to Wheeler, hoping he can help spur a surprise run late this year while returning to full health, and then extend him a qualifying offer at season’s end.