Is it too early to extend Zack Wheeler?

berkonavatarsmallBen Berkon, Contributor to MetsBlog.com:

New York Mets’ fans apparently aren’t the only people excited about the organization’s future. In a recent interview with NY Daily News, Zack Wheeler indicated that his strong preference would be to stay in New York long term.

“I’d like to be here,” Wheeler said. “[…] I know [trading young players is] part of the game, but I want to be here after the rebuilding.”

Since debuting in 2013, Wheeler has solidified his place atop the Mets’ rotation. The 24-year-old owns a career 3.44 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 3.77 xFIP), and a 2.12 strikeouts-to-walks ratio over his first 264.1 innings.

Yet, Wheeler’s anticipated “ace” ceiling hasn’t evolved as quickly as rotation-mate Matt Harvey’s. The righty has also proven to be below-average in the control department, surrendering a career 3.95 walks-per-nine-innings ratio.

Despite of how commonplace pre-arbitration extensions have become, would extending Zack Wheeler after the season still be a premature move for the Mets?

Regardless of his projected abilities, to Wheeler’s credit, the right-hander has made impressive strides in 2014.

In particular, Wheeler has focused on cutting down his free passes this season. The pitcher has seen his walks-per-nine-innings drop from 4.14 to a more respectable 3.83 clip.

But the right-hander is also becoming a smarter pitcher, too. Wheeler has witnessed a 10.7 percent spike in ground balls this season, rolling grounders at a 53.9 percent rate. In fact, the hurler’s improved ground-ball rate ranks 13th amongst major-league starting pitchers.

Wheeler’s new-found ability to induce ground balls isn’t an anomaly, however. The right-hander has noticeably been pounding the bottom section of the strike zone throughout 2014.

Wheeler_BB_rev

Zack Wheeler has thrown 53.1 percent of his pitches in the bottom section of the strike zone this season—which is a 6.0 percent bump.

The power righty’s utilization of his defense hasn’t affected his strikeout total, either. Wheeler has actually struck out more batters-per-nine-innings in 2014 than he did last season. And even though Wheeler’s 94.6 average-mile-per-hour fastball is on par with 2013, opposing hitters are whiffing at 0.9 percent more pitches.



Zack_Wheeler_strikeouts


Copy_of_Zack_Wheeler_strikeouts



Along with finding an elite bat (or two), general manager Sandy Alderson should prioritize extending Wheeler this offseason.

In terms of compensation, Wheeler matches up well with recently extended Atlanta Braves’ pitcher Julio Teheran:

Player Service Yrs Age ERA FIP ERA+ K/BB Ext. Year
Julio Teheran 1.062 23 3.44 3.85 111 3.43 2014
Zack Wheeler 1.109* 24 3.44 3.81 103 2.13 ??

*represents Wheeler’s service years after the 2014 season.

Like Wheeler, Teheran only accrued slightly more than a “service” year of experience before signing his six-year, $32.5 million extension. The Braves were also smart enough to include a team option for 2020—which could make the entire contract worth a mere $44.5 million over seven years.

Alternatively, Alderson and the Mets could instead decide to go year-to-year with their potential ace. But even the risk of an arm injury wouldn’t outweigh the inevitable bounty Wheeler will certainly make as a free agent come 2020.

Extending young players is no longer an idyllic symbol of loyalty or faith as it perhaps was in front offices of yesteryear. Particularly for an organization that has become so financially apprehensive, extending Zack Wheeler for the next six or seven years would simply be prudent economics—or for the Wilpons’ sake, a quick way to save cash.


Ben Berkon’s work has been published on Huffington Post, The Onion, and various other mainstream sites. Make sure to follow him @BenBerkon.




71 comments
Joe Boko
Joe Boko

Why wouldn't you lock him up? Kid gets better every year..Mets would be crazy not to extend him.

bk_shogun
bk_shogun

Why is there a confused-looking hipster doosh regurgitating Mets speculation

sell
sell

Ben, could you change that large, awkward pic? Thanks man

Too early to extend Wheeler unless it's an really team-friendly deal. 5-6 years, $50 mill?

BringBackDaveTelghe
BringBackDaveTelghe

Extend him!  Buy out the first couple years of free agency.  Use Matt Moore's extension as a basis and hike it up a little.



5 years/$14M (2012-16), plus 2017-19 club options

  • signed extension with Tampa Bay 12/9/11
  • $0.5M signing bonus
  • 12:$1M, 13:$1M, 14:$1M, 15:$3M, 16:$5M, 17:$7M club option ($2.5M buyout), 18:$9M club option ($1M buyout), 19:$10M club option ($0.75M buyout)

MetsFan1962
MetsFan1962

It's hard to think Wheeler can not continue his fine pitching over the next few years. A contract extension is doable after the 2015 season and not before.

Mark Rakentine
Mark Rakentine

Think about how bad it would have been if they would have extended John Maine after a year and a half....

hahn01
hahn01

@AVSNY I think locking him up makes sense. Only because if he becomes a star his "affordable contract" will help. *Sigh* or Jeff can sell

Robby Johnson
Robby Johnson

This actually surprises me.  It's not that Wheeler has ever said or done anything to make me believe he wouldn't want to stay, but him being born and raised in Georgia made me think he might go back home - or at least back south - one day.

ventura_4
ventura_4

Absolutely too early. Look, I know a lot of people don't want to trade him, but if the Mets want a difference maker on offense, they have to give up someone who other people actually want - not Neise or Gee.

joe21
joe21

They still have five years of control and he is not Arb 1 until 2017, so too soon and no need to do just yet. They could go to him after next year or even after 2016 to buy out Arb years and two from FA and it would be wise for Wheeler to take the guaranteed money. They would get seven more years from now. Might they save $5-10 over the course of the next seven years? Maybe, but you have to hedge against injury or performance risk. Too soon, if they buy out the first two years, he would be where Lester is

Steven Molello
Steven Molello

I agree with Berry Beltran below. Excited about the teams future? Not really. Do some of our young pitchers show the potential to be good sure...but that's where it ends. I wish this blog would stop spinning the Mets Kool Aid and recognize what Met fans recognize..This is an underfunded, underperforming team with a very bleak future until someone finds some dollars in the cash register. Who is Ben Berkon? Does he read MetsBlog or is he yet another member of Alderson & Company pr/spin firm?

Aidan Maslow
Aidan Maslow

I was thinking a few weeks ago that Sandy should use the off-season to extend Wheeler and give him a deal just north of what Niese got. Something like 5 yrs, 28 million, plus two team options of 11 and 12 million. Bringing the max total to 7 yrs, 51 mil.

11gilkey
11gilkey

When did the blog fully become the sabermetrics blog for nerdy Mets fans>  Enough with the graphs and charts.  Does anyone watch the games anymore, or do they just look at advanced statistics and determine the value solely on numbers.  Enough already. 

hashburry
hashburry

Two things. Harvey needs to actually pitch again before when is part of the equation. Second, stuff aside, I'd take deGrom any day over Wheeler.

George Brezny
George Brezny

That seems to be the model teams such as St. Louis have used... And, Philly for that matter years ago... Sign up and avoid the first few years of free agency. Mets were successful doing that with Reyes, Wright (first contract), and investing in Beltran... Same should be done for Harvey Wheeler, and deGrom... That's a pretty solid one, two, three... (Harvey is worth the risk)... They have tied themselves again with David's and Grandy's contracts but they had to.. Have to hope they both compete for comeback player in 15.. That is very possible. Impact bat needs to come from FA... Don't need to be stars...just more consistent ...Figure we will either get a very good RF Power bat or SS this offseason.. but not both.... with some of these kids platooning or coming off the bench... Kirk, decker, Soup in lf if we get an SS, or Reynolds, Tejada/Flores (pick one) at SS if we get an impact bat in left.. Otherwise this team seems pretty set. Cant afford trading and SP's or catching prospects... Go Mets in 15...

Steven M. Harries
Steven M. Harries

Yes, he should be extended via the rack, but if Sandy can't afford that, the iron maiden is cool, too. 

Bob Burket
Bob Burket

He's good. We all know he's good and will most likely get better. That said, he is 1 start from TJ surgery. You never know. Its a crap shoot. The Mets have been so bad at decision making the last several years that you just don't know what to do. This is why we need a fresh clean start by getting rid of Alderson and Collins and their decisions and get someone else.

joe21
joe21

He won't even be a free agent until 2020, why would you sign him for years he is already under control and still have him reach FA at the same time. The idea is to get 2-3 years of FA bought out

blueorange
blueorange

I'd give up Thor before Wheeler. Maybe Thor turns out to be better but sometimes it doesn't translate and Wheeler has been successful and should only get better.

Brian P. Mangan
Brian P. Mangan

@joe21 You're right, but that's the bet.  The closer he gets to Arb 1 and the more successful he is, the steeper the price will be.

These pre-arb contracts mostly work out in favor of the teams.  Everything is a dice roll.  Signing now is one, signing later is one, and so is letting him play it out to FA. 

blueorange
blueorange

@steven. First off anyone agreeing with berry Beltran loses credibility. Second, if you think the only light at the end of the tunnel is $$$ you should be playing fantasy baseball rather than follow the mets. If wheeler, degrom, Lagares, even d'Arnaud and Herrera don't provide any light, not to mention Harvey as well, you probably need to pay more attention to the games being played rather than following the behind the scenes crap.

zoddie
zoddie

Except the majority of Mets fans don't feel like you and Berry. They are optimistic. They see the boatload of young pitching to add to the core of Duda, TdA, Wright, Lagares, and Murphy. They're hopeful that Herrera, Nimmo, Flores, and Conforto add to the win total. They've seen Sandy make unbelievably good trades and hope that he can make one more.

metstastic
metstastic

@Aidan Maslow Niese was extended later.. The whole point of extending early is to pay him LESS than what Niese got. Yes, there is more risk.. and that is why you offer less.

BringBackDaveTelghe
BringBackDaveTelghe

@11gilkey A) This site barely embraces sabermetric stats.  Most articles have little to no associated research.

B) If your head can't head elementary facts and figures you're following the wrong sport.

C) Do you acknowledge the earth is round?


Macacawitz
Macacawitz

@11gilkey When you parse it out, the only graph that really matters is the one that matches wins against loses. 

jaydhn
jaydhn

@hashburry deGrom is more polished but Wheeler has much better stuff. i think if you gave Wheeler 2 more yrs he will be the more dominant pitcher.

Steven M. Harries
Steven M. Harries

@hashburry Nah. Saw Wheeler up close one game. His ball explodes. He's still young, and learning to be efficient in a dysfunctional organization is rough. I really like deGrom, hope he's a long-term mainstay, but we're still dealing with an smaller sample size with him than we are with Wheeler.

blueorange
blueorange

@bob. 1 start from TJ surgery. If so that holds true for every single pitcher. You are the apitome of the typical negative mets fan that complains about everything. The grass isn't always greener on the other side. Sure I dislike Collins but to somehow think that things will turn around just because someone else takes their place is ___________. The blank is not genius.

BringBackDaveTelghe
BringBackDaveTelghe

@joe21 That's the exact reason you do sign him.  Cost control.  There's an x percent chance he's a 20 million dollar player in 5 years....lock him up now, give the team cost certainty and Wheeler gets security.

ventura_4
ventura_4

Exactly my point. Other teams are going to see his big league success already, and they're going to want him.

I'd be willing to trade any of them for the right guy.

joe21
joe21

Don't need to do until after next year at earliest. Players will take guaranteed money and he is not going to get $10M. The Mets need the cash for additions and other Arb raises, not to mention burning off Grandy money after 2017. It would be detrimental to the team and you first extend players who are nearest to Arb, like say Matt Harvey. Extend Wheeler first and you guarantee the loss of a Harvey. Not only is it too soon, it is too early to even write a crazy article based on one year saber metrics. Sandy will not do this year and probably not even next year.

Steven Molello
Steven Molello

@blueorange Light at the end of the tunnel is garbage. This team has been built on ifs and whens for years. In the meantime look at reality..THE RESULTS. For one minute, why don't you look at the MAJOR LEAGUERS THE OTHER TEAMS HAVE…versus the hopes and dreams we have.

upstater
upstater

@blueorange Those guys do provide some light. The trouble is, not enough. You need several more offensive guys to have a serious contender and it isn't clear where they will come from. It is clear that they are not in LV or Binghamton, so this roster is certainly 2 or 3 guys short of being a contender. Without some FAs or miracle trades, next year is a repeat of this year.

Steven Molello
Steven Molello

@zoddie  You must be under age 25 or an employee of the Mets. If you look at how empty Citi Field is and read this blog you'd know that there are infinitely more people who are frustrated and don't show up at games and have no interest in this blog than there are people who believe that the good times are right ahead of us. You're living in a fantasy land zoddie.

Aidan Maslow
Aidan Maslow

@metstastic @Aidan Maslow There is no chance Wheeler signs for less given that he has better performance than Niese did at this point in his career. The service time for Wheeler come the end of the season would be almost identical, maybe slightly less, to Niese when he signed his deal. Niese had a little over a year in service time when he signed his deal, Wheeler will have roughly 1.1 years service time at the end of the season.

joe21
joe21

No player has ever come anywhere near $20M a year in Arb

zoddie
zoddie

@Steven Molello @zoddie I'm 36.  I remember 1986 and 1993 and 2000.


Infinitely more people?  Check the fan confidence rating on this very blog.  The Mets are headed towards another 70-something-win season and the confidence rating has been over 50% all year.  What's negative?  The commenters on this one blog.  Go to AmazinAvenue.com or many other sites.  People are excited.  They know the Wilpons are broke, but we also know Sandy has done a really good job with limited resources.


If you aren't excited about Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom, Montero, Gee, Niese, Colon, Syndergaard, and Matz all possibly being part of the 2015 rotation, I don't know what to tell you.  If you don't like having the best defensive outfielder in baseball, sorry.  If you're certain the David Wright of 2014 is the real David Wright and not the 2012 and 2013 versions, feel free.  If you haven't been impressed with Duda since the Ike trade, Murphy all year, and TdA since his promotion, that's a shame.  If you aren't optimistic about Nimmo, Herrera, Plawecki, and even the way Kirk has hit this season, that must suck for you.


And lastly, if you haven't been impressed by the way Sandy has made trades over the past couple of years, no GM will ever make you happy.

Matthew Shea
Matthew Shea

Agree 100%. The offense as it stands is not good enough to win 80 games without additions. I don't care how good the pitching is. They need 2 legit hitters added or they won't break .500 next year. I am about as down on the Mets as I ever have been bc I don't see any hitters who cab reasonably be added at least not by this GM and ownership. Groundhog Day next year again.

Tarheel11
Tarheel11

@joe21 Didn't Lincecum ask for 22M and he settled for 20M two years ago? 

Steven Molello
Steven Molello

@zoddie @Steven Molello Thank you Mr.Wilpon but if you haven't noticed your team is 1 1/2 games out of last place. Please leave this is a site for Mets fans not ownership. You can also Google Sandy Alderson's trades and view them all, most of which have been awful. We know the fan confidence poll on this site has never been accurate and probably rigged by your family.


Your comments are hilarious. Maybe you're a comedian?

joe21
joe21

He didn't settle, Sabean lost his mind and offered it. Highest ever award is $10M and Kershaw signed his final two years away at $10M per. Can't go by Lincecum, total aberration and if you do, it should tell you not to sign now because look at his flame out. Cautionary tale is not to sign. Why would you push to extend wheeler before Harvey?

zoddie
zoddie

@Steven Molello You must be dense or have a particularly bad memory.  Either way, find a new hobby.  This one ain't doin' it for you.  


Because the Wheeler trade was pretty damn good.

The Byrd trade was pretty damn good.

The Dickey trade was pretty damn good.


Weren't those his last three big trades?  Guess you want to give back Thor, Herrera, Black, Wheeler, TdA, and Beccera.


The team has a nearly even run differential and is getting Thor and Harvey next year.


We beg of you, follow another team.  Try the Yanks or maybe the Dodgers.


I like the conspiracy theory about the fan poll, too.  I bet climate change is fake because it was cold in NYC last winter and 9/11 and Pearl Harbor were government setups, right?