SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Zack Wheeler has until Thursday at 5 p.m. ET to accept or reject the Mets’ $17.8 million qualifying offer. Thus, over the coming days, Wheeler and his representatives will weigh the level of interest he’s receiving from other Major League clubs.
Judging by the early indications, Wheeler is likely to turn down the Mets’ offer and explore the open market.
The Angels, Padres and White Sox are among the teams showing interest in Wheeler during the early days of free agency, sources say.
Wheeler could rank as high as third on teams’ preference lists among free-agent pitchers, following American League Cy Young Award finalist Gerrit Cole and World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg.
Wheeler, 29, is coming off a career-high 195 1/3 innings this year, over which he maintained a 3.96 ERA. Wheeler’s strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.90 was his best single-season mark in the Major Leagues.
Cole and Strasburg are Scott Boras clients, while Wheeler is represented by Jet Sports Management. In these early days of the offseason, it’s unclear how that dynamic could influence the timing of Wheeler’s free-agent decision.
Boras is comfortable waiting until late in the offseason -- or Spring Training (see Bryce Harper) -- before having his biggest clients sign. If Boras takes that approach with Cole and Strasburg, Wheeler’s representatives could market him as the top free-agent pitcher who is willing to sign in November or December .
Conversely, Wheeler could wait until after Cole and/or Strasburg sign, thus hoping to capitalize on the desperation of teams who missed out on their top targets.
The Angels, Padres and White Sox are fits for Cole and Strasburg, too, and may want to gauge their chances of signing the Boras-represented right-handers before moving aggressively on Wheeler.
The Angels’ need for rotation help is perhaps most acute, as their 40-man roster does not include any pitchers who threw at least 100 innings in the Majors this year.
The Padres, meanwhile, are seeking at least one experienced starter to augment a young rotation. San Diego utilized a starting pitcher in his age-27 season or older in only 20 games this year.
The White Sox have sought a major free-agent splash since last winter, when they pursued Harper and Manny Machado. The rotation is the most natural place for general manager Rick Hahn to make a major upgrade after White Sox starters combined for a 5.30 ERA this year.