The Mets expect to get arguably their top trade chip back before the July 31 deadline. Right-hander Zack Wheeler, on the injured list since July 15 with a shoulder impingement, is slated to start Friday against Pittsburgh, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Wheeler got through a bullpen session unscathed on Sunday and is “likely” to throw live batting practice Tuesday, according to Puma.
Assuming Wheeler does make it back by the end of the week, he’ll have one opportunity to prove he’s healthy prior to the end-of-month trade cutoff. Wheeler’s arm looked plenty lively over the season’s first few months, but his injury has prevented him from taking a major league mound since July 7. Before then, an array of teams showed reported interest in Wheeler, who stands out as the non-contending Mets’ best impending free agent and one of the most appealing soon-to-be FAs in baseball. The Mets could keep Wheeler and issue him a qualifying offer in the offseason, meaning they’d still get something for his departure, though a healthy version seems more likely to wind up on the move in the next week-plus.
The 29-year-old Wheeler’s just a season removed from serving as one of the NL’s top starters, as he logged a 3.31 ERA/3.25 FIP with 4.2 fWAR/3.9 bWAR in 182 1/3 innings. His output was all the more impressive considering Wheeler barely pitched from 2015-17 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the first of those years.
Now four years away from his procedure, Wheeler hasn’t enjoyed as much success as he did in 2018. Thus far, Wheeler has pitched to a 4.69 ERA through 119 innings, having seen his HR/9 climb from .69 last season to 1.21 this season. But Wheeler remains among the game’s hardest throwers, and the rest of his numbers are vastly more encouraging than what could be a somewhat deceiving ERA. Wheeler’s 9.83 K/9, 2.57 BB/9 and 3.67 FIP all suggest he’d help a contender down the stretch. It appears he’ll have a chance to make his case Friday.