Why did the Mets send Zack Wheeler to minor league camp?

Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer

The Mets sent Zack Wheeler down to minor-league camp yesterday, more or less guaranteeing he will not be on the Opening Day roster, a) because he has been working back from an oblique injury, but also b) because there is no way they were going to break camp with him and lose him earlier to free agency.

For instance, had Wheeler broken camp on Opening Day, he’d be eligible for salary arbitration and free agency a full year earlier than if the team waits until after May 1. However, if the team waits even further in to the summer to promote Wheeler (as well as Travis d’Arnaud) it could mean delaying a potential Super 2 status, which would allow for a fourth year of salary arbitration.

Zack Wheeler 3 polaroidAccording to MLB Trade Rumors, “Super two players go to arbitration four times instead of three, so they make more money than their peers. This incentivizes teams to keep top young players in the minors for extra seasoning: clubs save millions in future seasons if their players don’t qualify as super twos.”

This year, the Super 2 cutoff date may be around June 15, a major league executive recently told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.

In other words, as Rubin writes, “We may not see Wheeler (in the big leagues) until after that date.”

This is common. In recent years, Carlos Santana, Giancarlo Stanton, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Moustakas, Matt Wieters and Andrew McCutchen were all promoted later in the season in an attempt to avoid Super 2 status. So, I’m not surprised to see Sandy Alderson and his staff approach their top prospects in the same way as everyone else. I’m sure the Yankees would do the same thing, if they had any top prospects worth considering in this way.

To me, this is the question: Would I rather have Wheeler and d’Arnaud on the roster now – at a time when they’ll probably struggle a bit working to adjust to the big leagues? Or, would I rather have them for as long as possible, later in their careers, after they’ve established themselves and are – hopefully – contributing to a post-season contender?