Wheeler's off to Phils. How do Mets replace him?

December 6th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Realistically, the Mets were never likely to re-sign Zack Wheeler, who agreed Wednesday to a five-year, $118 million megadeal with the Phillies. Nor have they been likely to pursue Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the only two starters on the open market likely to command more money than Wheeler.

Right before Wheeler signed with the Phillies, noted at the Mets’ holiday party that “if [Wheeler] goes to Philly, that’s a little problematic.” The problem is not just that the Mets have a rotation hole with a thinning pool of candidates to fill it. It’s that the Phils’ gain of Wheeler was the Mets’ loss, given his value to their rotation the past two seasons. It’s that the Braves have been baseball’s most aggressive team this offseason, agreeing Wednesday to a one-year, $18 million deal with Cole Hamels. It’s that the Nationals are the reigning World Series champs, and they are looking to add pieces.

Amid all that National League East noise, the Mets must find a way to improve as well. Here’s a look at some of the starters they could pursue with Wheeler and Hamels off the board:

Not going to happen: ,
Until proven otherwise, it’s just unrealistic to think the Mets will shop in this aisle. Moving on ...

Don’t get your hopes up: , ,
At various points this decade, Bumgarner and Ryu managed to insert themselves onto the short list of baseball’s best pitchers. Those reputations could allow both to command multiyear deals outside the Mets’ price range. As for Keuchel, the Mets showed little interest when his previous free agency lingered into the early months of the 2019 season. They aren’t likely to change their view of him now.

The upside guys: , , ,
Pineda is on his way back to the Twins (and will miss the first month-plus of the 2020 season due to a PED suspension). The other three names on this list were non-tendered this week due to their former teams’ financial and/or injury concerns. Walker might have the most upside as a first-round pick who returned from Tommy John surgery late last season. Sanchez will miss the start of this year as he rehabs from right shoulder surgery. If the Mets want to take a risk, this is a good area in which they can do it.

The best of the rest: , , , ,
Porcello is a New Jersey native, which probably increases the Mets’ chances to land him. But take the 2016 American League Cy Young Award off his resume and Porcello has been, statistically, a below-average big league pitcher. He and the other names on this list are more likely to provide steady production than anything else ... which may be just fine for a Mets team seeking to add a back-end starter.

Or, just stand pat: ,
On multiple occasions, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has said he would be comfortable heading into the season with Lugo or Gsellman as his fifth starter. Perhaps that’s posturing. More likely, it’s not. Both have been successful starters for the Mets in the past, and if Van Wagenen determines he can upgrade the bullpen more easily than the rotation, Lugo and Gsellman give him the flexibility to do that.