Why trading future ace Zach Wheeler is a good idea
Let me start by saying this:
I love Zach Wheeler.
But now, some hard reality:
He's the 5th best pitcher on the team, and the Mets should trade him.
As crazy as it seems to say that Wheeler, former 6th overall pick who has not disappointed in his time in the majors with the Mets, could be the 5th best pitcher on any team, that's the what the Mets are dealing with these days.
No one would argue that Wheeler is better than Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard continues to prove that he belongs in that conversation, as I discussed earlier this week. Steven Matz has only made two starts before going down injured, but his potential looks to be at Wheeler's level, if not higher.
The difference, in case you forgot, is that Wheeler is unlikely to be at full strength until the beginning of the 2017 season.
After undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2015, conventional logic would suggest that Wheeler would be ready to return in mid-June 2016. It's said to be a 14 month recovery for a pitcher, and that's usually pretty accurate.
But as Mets fans have seen with Matt Harvey (above) this season, it often takes a while for a player coming back from Tommy John to recover their pre-surgery form.
Sure, Wheeler could be the exception. He could come back in July 2016 and pitch the lights out.
He could also fail to make a full recovery altogether.
The point is, we don't know what'll happen when he returns.
It's no secret: the big year for the Mets is the 2016 season.
But that doesn't mean this year doesn't matter. The thinking is, let's build ourselves up to be a serious, serious top contender next season. But, hey: while we're at it, let's have a go this year - hence the rentals of Uribe and Johnson.
The rotation of deGrom - Harvey - Syndergaard - Matz is expected to be ready to dominate from the get-go next season. You've got to hope that a move for a quality outfielder will be made either before tomorrow's deadline or in the offseason, though anyone who knows the Mets knows that it's not wise to count on them spending money.
Wheeler won't be a part of the early plans. He's not helping the Mets now, and he won't be ready to help for some time.
Teams aren't afraid of Tommy John surgery like they used to be. For the most part, it's seen as just time off, not really an injury. The return rate is extremely high, and it's a very reliable procedure.
What does that mean? It means that Wheeler's value in a trade doesn't suffer as much as you might think.
He can still command a big price, which is why we saw the deal for someone like Carlos Gomez *almost* go through yesterday.
Wheeler is a great player, and I'll be excited if he's still a Met come next summer. But if the Mets can work out a deal for a big bat, under contract through next season at least, in exchange for the injured Wheeler, I'll take it.
If the Mets want to win now, it's time to focus on the players that will help them do so. That means healthy pitchers and top hitters.
Wheeler doesn't fit either of those categories. Trading him to land the Mets a major piece would change the future of the franchise.