Mets right-hander and prime trade candidate Zack Wheeler went on the injured list Monday with shoulder fatigue – an issue that may damage or destroy his value. However, if Wheeler makes it back in the next couple weeks, the Rays could be among the teams competing for him around the July 31 trade deadline. They’ve asked about Wheeler, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports.
Tampa Bay’s rotation currently has a notable omission of its own in righty Tyler Glasnow, who has been down since the beginning of May with a flexor strain. Rays manager Kevin Cash announced Monday that Glasnow may not make it back this season, which could intensify their efforts to acquire pitching before the deadline.
At 56-40, two games up on the American League’s No. 1 wild-card spot and five behind the AL East-leading Yankees, the Rays are in position to buy. The success the Rays have achieved this year is all the more impressive when considering their dearth of traditional starters. Charlie Morton, Blake Snell and Yonny Chirinos are all the team has right now in that regard, though Brendan McKay has performed well in the first three starts of his career and could return from Triple-A Durham soon.
In acquiring Wheeler, the low-budget Rays would be getting one of baseball’s hardest-throwing starters on a salary even they could afford ($5.975MM). But Wheeler’s not under control past 2019, which would make him a pure rental for Tampa Bay, and has had a difficult time preventing runs this year.
In spite of his 97 mph-plus fastball, the 29-year-old Wheeler has pitched to a below-average 4.69 ERA across 119 innings. While a subpar Mets defense has undermined Wheeler’s efforts, he has further hindered his cause by yielding home runs on a career-worst 13.7 percent of fly balls. FIP (3.66), xFIP (3.84), SIERA (3.99) and fWAR (2.6) all suggest Wheeler has deserved far better this season, though, and his 9.83 K/9 against 2.57 BB/9 presents another reason for bullishness. Of course, if Wheeler’s still out of commission by the deadline, his production could prove to be meaningless to the Rays and other July buyers.