This winter, the New York Mets let starting pitcher Zack Wheeler walk away as a free agent. That decision looks even worse now that Noah Syndergaard is out for the season after Tommy John surgery.
Back on December 9th, Zack Wheeler and the Philadelphia Phillies agreed on a five-year, $118M contract. New York Mets GM, Brodie Van Wagenen countered his division rival with a one-year, $10M deal for former Red Sox starter, Rick Porcello and a one-year, $3M contract with former Cardinals starter, Michael Wacha.
This we already knew. What wasn’t known at the time was that incumbent starter, Noah Syndergaard was going to need Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2020 season.
Before Syndergaard decided on surgery, the decision to not retain Wheeler was already viewed by fans as an unpopular one from the Mets front office. Wheeler was coming off back to back sub 4.00 ERA seasons where he accumulated 60 total starts.
The most impressive part of Wheeler’s 2018 and 2019 seasons came in the second half of those seasons. In 2018, he went 9-1 with a 1.68 ERA with 73 Ks in 11 starts and 5-2 with a 2.83 ERA with 65 Ks in 12 starts in 2019. Wheeler’s WAR according to FanGraphs those two years was 4.2 and 4.7 respectively.
Marcus Stroman (and his final year of arbitration – $12M) was supposed to give the New York Mets their Wheeler replacement, cementing three stars at the top of the rotation. At the same time accomplishing their goal of keeping payroll down.
2016 AL CY Young award winner Porcello and 2013 World Series winner in Wacha were brought in to add necessary depth to the rotation as well as competition for fourth-starter Steven Matz. Assuming Matz and Porcello win the final two rotation spots, Wacha would have given the New York Mets a much-needed long reliever out of the bullpen, an area they finished in the bottom five in most categories a season ago.