Wheeler dominates to add fuel to trade buzz
Ziegler, Harvey likely candidates to be moved before Tuesday's Deadline
As Zack Wheeler has made himself more attractive to contenders with each strong start over the past two months -- he tossed six scoreless innings Sunday in his final outing before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline -- he has also seemingly become more unattainable.
Sources say the Mets have moved on from the idea of trading Jacob deGrom (at least for now) and are busy fielding offers for Wheeler, another one of their controllable starting pitchers. Although his injury history makes him somewhat of a risky addition for a contender, Wheeler is owed only about $750,000 for the rest of this season and is arbitration-eligible for 2019, making it a low-cost risk for any acquiring team.
However, the Mets have gained considerable leverage in Wheeler trade discussions since the beginning of June, as the righty has recorded a 3.20 ERA over his past 11 starts while showing a notable increase in velocity. As a result, the Mets' asking price has increased, as have Wheeler's chances of remaining with New York.
"I don't think it's a done deal that they move Wheeler," one National League talent evaluator said. "They need to receive appropriate value for him. He's a guy peaking in his career and under control at a reasonable salary."
Unlike impending free agents Asdrubal Cabrera and Jeurys Familia, who would not have been in line to receive a qualifying offer even if they weren't traded, Wheeler's contract situation gives the Mets some flexibility.
"There's no urgency for the Mets to move him," the insider said. "As we get closer to the Deadline, there's a reasonable chance they haven't received their best offer."
The Yankees, Brewers and Reds are among the teams that have been connected to Wheeler, though it is believed that at least a half-dozen teams have expressed interest and scouted Wheeler's recent outings.
Then again, as one veteran executive noted this week, "Don't confuse interest with the ability to get something done."
• Elsewhere in the NL pitching market, the Marlins should have very little trouble moving Brad Ziegler before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline, as several clubs have been scouting the reliever during the past week.
Ziegler leads the NL with 51 appearances and has been superb for nearly two months, allowing two runs over 26.2 innings (0.68 ERA) in his past 26 appearances.
Although Ziegler -- who is owed about $3.5 million for the rest of the season -- is expected to be traded, the Marlins seem intent on keeping their crop of controllable players, including their young, talented bullpen pieces.
"I really don't think they're going to move many guys," one talent evaluator said. "Adam Conley maybe, but Kyle Barraclough and Drew Steckenrider, it will take a huge package to pry them away. I don't see a scenario where they move those guys."
• The Reds have drawn interest in Matt Harvey from a few teams, and while it may go down to Tuesday's Deadline, the former Met is expected to be moved after another good showing on Saturday.
"He doesn't look like the old 'Dark Knight,' but he looks much better than he did when the Mets got rid of him," one scout said. "If the price is right, he's worth a shot. Nothing would focus him more than pitching in a pennant race with free agency on the horizon."
• The chatter around Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer has all but quieted down since he landed on the DL with an oblique injury this month, making it likely that Detroit won't field serious offers for the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year until the offseason.
Then again, depending on how the Tigers feel their rebuild is coming along, it's possible they could decide not to trade Fulmer at all, opting to build their staff around him instead.
"Trading a guy with four years of control sends a message that you don't plan to contend for five years," one NL executive said. "That's a tough one to sell to your fan base."
The fact that Fulmer's ERA has risen from 3.06 to 3.83 to 4.50 in his three seasons in the Majors could also impact his trade value. A strong stretch drive by Fulmer could reignite teams' interest in the right-hander.
• One talent evaluator was impressed by the D-backs' acquisition of right-hander Matt Andriese from the Rays. Andriese had a 4.07 ERA in 27 games with the Rays this season, but scouts view him as a useful bullpen arm who can get lefties out and provide length when called upon.
"You love having that guy as a 0-3 when he doesn't cost anything, but they likely viewed him as a swingman they could replace," the talent evaluator said. "He was a potential non-tender, so why not move him for some usable, cheaper pieces?"
Arizona and Tampa Bay have now made four trades since last November, including deals that sent Brad Boxberger and Steven Souza Jr. to the D-backs.
"Give Arizona a ton of credit on that one; Andriese isn't somebody teams were necessary asking for because they wouldn't have suspected he was available," the evaluator said. "These teams have done plenty of business together, so perhaps [GM Mike] Hazen had a feel for who the Rays might be willing to move. They identified [Andriese] as a target, and catcher is an area of depth for the Arizona organization. Michael Perez didn't necessarily fit into their plans, so they used him to get a useful arm."