New York Mets: Will deGrom’s contract squeeze out Wheeler?

Zack Wheeler, New York Mets. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Zack Wheeler, New York Mets. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler can become a free agent at the end of the season. After the big contract they just gave to Jacob deGrom, will the Mets be able to keep their third starter?

New York Mets Nation was ecstatic when it was announced last week the club had reached an agreement to extend Jacob deGrom‘s contract. The staff ace and defending Cy Young Award winner is slated to receive $137.5M over the next five seasons. Through his performance, deGrom earned the money, but there may be an undesirable side effect to deGrom’s signing.

Zack Wheeler, the Mets third starter, could become a free agent at the end of this season. Entering 2019, he had 5.09 years of service. Players need six years of MLB time to qualify for free agency. That means if Wheeler pitches the entire season in New York, he can walk at the end of it.

More from Empire Writes Back

Wheeler was originally acquired by the New York Mets at the 2011 trade deadline. He was part of the deal that sent Carlos Beltran to San Francisco. A strong start to his major league career in 2014 took a detour when he missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons due to surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow (Tommy John surgery).

He didn’t pitch particularly well during his 2017 comeback season but took a big leap forward in 2018. Last year he threw 182.1 innings and finished with a 12-7 record, 3.31 ERA, 179 strikeouts, and 1.124 WHIP. Impressive numbers, had he been on a team with a decent bullpen, Wheeler might have won 15 or 16.

The New York Mets may physically exist in the largest market in America, but act like they are in a small market. The Wilpon family who owns the team isn’t known for giving big contracts when they don’t feel they have to. deGrom has his big contract, the team’s other top pitcher Noah Syndergaard will exceed his $6M salary in arbitration next year. It appears the Mets may not be able to afford Wheeler especially if he continues to improve.

The 2019-20 offseason is shaping up to be an interesting free agent market for starting pitchers. Madison Bumgarner, Gerrit Cole, Jake Odorizzi, and Rick Porcello will all be free agents. Additionally, Stephen Strasburg could exercise an opt-out making him a free agent as well. Conceivably, Wheeler might not be able to get a huge contract on the open market either.

Next. 5 reasons for Mets optimism – Part 4 Revamped Bullpen. dark

Should he continue on his current path, it would be wise for the Amazins to lock up Zach Wheeler for the next few years. That is if they can afford him.