Reese Kaplan -- What Is Zack Wheeler Really Worth?


When the news about Zack Wheeler’s ill-time injury was announced on Monday, many felt it was a fait accompli that he was off the market instead of being the lynchpin of the Mets’ mid-season sell-off that was set to begin since Brodie Van Wagenen conceded the team had not done what he’d envisioned.  After all, with an IL stint right now it sabotages Wheeler’s value even if he comes back in time to make one or even two starts before July 31st.  Clubs may be gun shy and afraid to pull the trigger on someone with a checkered injury history and who now has already missed time this season due to shoulder fatigue. 

However, lost somewhat in the shuffle are two starting pitcher trades for somewhat comparable pitchers that might give an idea of what the market is (or would have been) for a healthy Zack Wheeler.  The first occurred when the Baltimore Orioles sent Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox for a pair of 17 year old international prospects.  Before we delve into the return, let’s first look at the career of Cashner and how he stacks up to Wheeler.

Right now Cashner is also a free agent to be, in the 2nd year of a two-year deal that pays him $8 million this season along with a 2020 option for $10 million that kicks in automatically should he pitch 90+ innings between now and the end of the year.  Andrew has had the misfortune of playing for some very bad teams in his career and thus he owns a ghastly 55-82 record.  His 4.00 ERA is fine for a back end starter, but his 1.344 WHIP suggests his inability to keep people off base may contribute to his somewhat mediocre production.

Zack Wheeler, by contrast, is 3 years younger, owns a 39-36 career record (also playing for bad teams), sports a 3.88 ERA and a superior 1.302 WHIP.  Granted, other than won/lost record, the numbers are not significantly better, but bear in mind that Wheeler only earns $5.975 million with no obligation for 2020 whatsoever.  On the surface, Wheeler would seem to be a far better bet (if he was as healthy). 

Also changing uniforms this week was Homer Bailey, most recently of the Kansas City Royals, now a member of the Oakland A’s starting rotation.  Like Cashner, Bailey has a losing record for career at 74-83 and has a significantly higher ERA of 4.58.  His WHIP is somewhat worse as well at 1.379.  He currently earns only $100,000 with the Dodgers picking up his salary having released him.  From a finance standpoint, the edge goes to Bailey, but his current season performance is actually slightly worse than his career numbers.

So what did the Orioles land for Andrew Cashner?  They got a pair of 17 year old international free agents from Venezuela.  Elio Prado is a speedy centerfielder off to a nice start in a very small sample with a .303 AVG and 9 stolen bases.  Noelberth Romero is currently playing 3B but they project him to move to SS and expect he will hit with power.  Right now he’s batting .264 in the Dominican Summer League.

To obtain Bailey the A’s sent a former first round pick by the name of Kevin Merrell, a 23 year old currently playing in AA where he’s hitting a middling .246 though showing good speed.   The lefty swinging middle infielder has never hit for any power but owns a .277 career mark in the minors and once hit .364 in college. 

Wow, neither package seems particularly impressive.  In the first case, you’re looking at deep wildcards whose development between now and possible ascension to the majors is a long way off.  For a frame of reference, the Mets obtained Wuilmer Becerra as part of the R.A. Dickey trade and he was thought to be a great wildcard acquisition who has subsequently been released before never even making it to AA. 

On the flip side, the return of Romero would kind of be like if the Mets gave up Gavin Cecchini who is a career .283 hitter in the minors, another former first round pick who didn’t pan out as expected. 

Cashner had been on a hot streak at the time of his trade with a prolonged period of pitching to a sub-2.00 ERA (kind of like the recently ended streak by Jason Vargas).  Wheeler is having a poor season after last year’s breakthrough performance, with a 6-6 record and a 4.69 ERA.  On the plus side, the WHIP is better than usual at 1.277 and he’s fanned 130 in just 119 IP. 

So ask yourself, if this is the value of similar pitchers  who are healthy, then what could the Mets realistically expect to get for Zack Wheeler given the suspicion about his ability to take the ball every 5th day? 


Tom Brennan said...

Good question? What would the Mets get? Maybe not much.

If not, hold onto him in case there is an improbable pennant run, make him a qualifying offer, get pick instead?

Gary Seagren said...

Yes it makes more sense now to go for the QO which really is very sad considering where we were the last couple of years pitching wise but now with Noah probably not going to get the big contract from us where does that leave us for the future?

Reese Kaplan said...

Ummm...am I the only one here who thinks Zack Wheeler is not worth $18 million?

bill metsiac said...

He said he would like to be here next year, even if traded. If he's not traded, sign him to an extension if he earns it with a strong finish.

Hypothetical question: In the (unlikely) event that we win, say, 10 of the remaining July games, are we still sellers?

Reese Kaplan said...

I would say yes. There are pieces that will not be a part of the future that should be peddled for something. That's just good business.

Tom Brennan said...

Reese, I think Zack is worth it for a year, because the cupboard is bare. Kay presumably will be ready, and if not him, who?

If there is a better one year deal where the Mets trade nobody, get that guy...but I like signing pitchers one year at a time. If Zack gets hurt in 2020, not the Mets problem beyond that.

Tom Brennan said...

Bill, we've won 3 straight - one more with Minny and then 4 with SFG. If the Mets win 3 or more of those 5, tough to sell. Win all 5, somehow? Time to jump in.

If that happens, somehow, Ruben Tejada will get us into the playoffs. Tejada was 3 for 3 last night, 4 RBIs. In 50 games he is hitting .375 with a .553 slug %. This guy has reinvented himself.

Mack Ade said...

Re: Wheeler - he currently has no trade value

Re: Tejade - I have seen this many times before. All Ruben has done so far is become an All-Star player... At the AAA level

Viper said...

Lets be realistic in another way.

What is the number one reason the Mets are not at the very least competing for the WC? The BP. 21 blown saves I think.

Maybe consideration should be given to taking advantage that Wheeler hasn't pitch that well this season and offer him an extension instead of trading him. Isn't a better idea to bring Wheeler back than to lose him and still have sign another pitcher to replace him who may not be as good?

Fix the BP, that's the key.

deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, Wheeler, Lugo...yeah I still like it.

Tom Brennan said...

Viper, what about Kay 2020 in rotation, and Lugo staying in the pen?

Lugo has helped make the pen less of a disaster than it would otherwise have been.

Tom Brennan said...

Mack, Tejada lacks enough at bats to qualify in the International League yet, but if he qualified, he would be first, by a country mile, in both batting average and on base %, and 9th in slugging %.

That may be more than just a AAA All Star.

Perhaps not a major league starter - but he is a major leaguer stuck in the minors right now. His #s say so.

Tom Brennan said...

Again, you don't keep Wheeler, what is your Plan B?

Case in Point: David Peterson last night, 3.1 IP, 8 hits, 4 runs, 2 HRs, balk, wild pitch, just 2 Ks. I have real doubts that this guy will ever be an effective major leaguer. He is far from an effective MLB caliber player right now.

bill metsiac said...

In another unlikely scenario. Santana is gradually pitching more and more innings at 'Cuse. If he's healthy, he might work his way back up.

Tom Brennan said...

Bill, if they fall out of it altogether, Santana can be the Mets' latest innings eater.

Where the heck is Bartolo Colon?

Reese Kaplan said...

Why does every "eater" comment always come back to Bart?

Tom Brennan said...

Bart was bad for the Mets - in the sense that the Mets had success with a contrarian move, so they become enamored with ongoing contrarian player moves - that frequently fail

Viper said...


Kay isn't pitching that great in AAA. There is no guarantee that he will be ready for mid 2020. Also, even if he is, would he be as good as Lugo?

I see the value of Lugo in the BP because he can do so many things but at the end of they day, he wants to be a starter and the Mets should make him happy.

If the Mets lose Wheeler to free agency, Lugo would be a great replacement in the rotation.

Like I said, fix the pen.

Met Monkey said...

Please, why not toss some Mickey Jannis into the salad?

John From Albany said...

Kay won today. 15-5.

Robb said...

Wheeler (healthy) is worth 2 prospects in the range of 11-20 and 25-30 depending on the teams strength of farm system. I dont think he rates a top 100 prospect, but that really depends on which team is making the trade. Strange as it sounds, i think the Braves are the team thats going to come and get wheeler and I think they are going to pay up, bc someone is going to overpay for Bumbgartner and then well they have too. Best case scenario is they overpay from a position of strength (lhp or OF) You could dream on drew waters, but its probably Jenista. its a crappy market this year which should help the mets.

And i dont care if the mets win 10 in a row, they should sell. They wont be selling the players that helped to win those games who ought to be around for the future.

Tom Brennan said...

Robb, I hope you're right.

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