The Red Sox and Mets are engaged in preliminary talks regarding New York righty Zack Wheeler, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Boston is said to be targeting a rotation addition after deciding to utilize Nathan Eovaldi in the bullpen.
Importantly, there’s no indication that a deal is close. And the Sox are far from alone in pursuit of Wheeler. The Braves, Brewers, and Yankees were all connected to him recently. Andy Martino of SNY.tv suggests that the Cubs are another possibility, though it’s unclear whether the clubs are in contact.
It’s unsurprising to hear tell of a robust slate of possible suitors for a pitcher who figures to be among the top rental arms available. That’s especially true given that Wheeler is earning just under $6MM this season, making him amply affordable for just about any team.
The salary factor is of particular note with regard to the Boston organization. While the club is one of the game’s most consistent spenders and is coming off of the bonanza of a World Series win, it is also walking a financial tightrope this year and doesn’t plan to extend its payroll much further.
It’s also notable to see the Fenway denizens connected at this stage to a top rental piece. The club isn’t exactly in prime position after a ho-hum start to the season. There’s a nine-game gap in the division, which is paced by a Yankees club that seems poised to make more impactful additions, and serious competition even for a Wild Card birth.
What’s most interesting of all here, perhaps, is the potential for a quick and active bidding situation. The Red Sox and Yankees are obviously aware of the implications of one or the other landing a particular player. With the Sox said to be looking to strike a relatively quick deal to bring in rotation help, they could conceivably force the market to move. If the Yanks see Wheeler as their preferred target, they might need to act decisively, setting up an intriguing dynamic involving the club’s chief on-field rival in Boston and its sole market competitor across the way in Queens.
Martino says the Mets “have shifted into a more aggressive sell mode,” which makes sense given their all-but-hopeless spot in the standings (ten games under .500, 13.5 out of the division lead, second-to-worst record in the National League). It may well behoove the team to get the jump on marketing its rental pieces, Wheeler in particular, while other teams try to wait until the last moment. But committing even to a limited sell-off — particularly this early, and especially if it involves the Yankees — would certainly represent a bitter pill for ownership and rookie GM Brodie Van Wagenen.