The trade candidacy of Mets righty Zack Wheeler hit an uncertain patch when it emerged recently that he was dealing with a shoulder issue. Though all indications were that it was not a serious malady, teams considering giving up young talent to secure a few months of his services wanted to see for themselves.
Accordingly, Wheeler’s outing this evening represented a major test. It’s his last opportunity to show contenders what they’d be getting. That’s of more importance to the New York team than the player, but there’s something at stake here for him as well. Being dealt would not only create an opportunity for high-profile pitching in advance of his forthcoming foray into free agency, but would eliminate the possibility of a qualifying offer that could leave him burdened with draft compensation.
As it turns out, the night went about as well as could have been hoped for the 29-year-old. While there’s nothing special about allowing three earned runs over 5 1/3 innings, Wheeler ran up seven strikeouts without a walk and sat at his customary ~97 mph level with his four-seam fastball.
There are certainly some limits to Wheeler’s appeal as a trade piece. He’s one of the many pitchers who has seen his home-run rate rise this year. Through 124 1/3 frames, he carries an ugly 4.71 ERA. But Wheeler is also racking up 9.9 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 for the season and carries the same impressive arsenal that allowed him to deliver an excellent 2018 campaign. As a live-armed, younger hurler, he’s quite an appealing rental target. The injury blip will surely weigh on the market a bit, but he ought to generate significant interest now that it seems he has managed to come through his trial in fine shape.
We’ll see how the market develops over the coming days. There has been some chatter about the possibility of the Mets extending Wheeler rather than dealing him, but it’s not clear just how that’d work out. This is hardly a typical time of the year for contract negotiations, particularly with a pitcher that is just recovering from a health issue, and there are no assurances whatsoever that the club would be able to make a deal to its liking.