Even though Zack Wheeler hasn't pitched in a major league game in over a year, he has become a big ticket item for many teams looking for an established major league pitcher with ace potential. However, don't expect to see Wheeler in another uniform when he's back in the big leagues, hopefully sometime in the middle of the year.
Mets Assistant General Manager John Ricco dispelled any rumors that the Mets are trying to push Wheeler in a deal at the GM meetings last week, but that as always they'll listen for the right offer, as they would with any of their pitchers.
Executives around the league, including Yankees General Manager, agree that Wheeler is going to make a lot of teams' wish lists, despite the fact that he underwent Tommy John surgery only eight months ago. Cashman spoke about Wheeler's value when talking about the Brewers' interest level back in July, despite the fact he was fresh off surgery:
"He's an asset that should intrigue people or interest people, and clearly he does, for good reason, there's not enough talent in the game. So yeah, he's marked up, he's got a scar from Tommy John, but that shouldn't scare you off."
Phillies GM Matt Klentak agreed with Cashman, saying that it is so difficult to find talent in today's game that taking a risk on somebody like Wheeler isn't a bad idea despite his elbow surgery:
"You have draft, international free agency, we've got domestic free agency which is very expensive. Sometimes clubs are willing to take on a little more risk for the upside, even if you know you might end up netting zero."
Wheeler's value lies in the fact that he's already established that he can pitch in the majors effectively. He's 18-16 with a 3.50 career ERA in 49 career starts, and has 271 strikeouts in 285.1 innings pitched. He's 25 years old and throws in the mid-to-high-90s. If all goes well, he'll be back in the majors sometime around mid-season. Whether that will be in New York or somewhere else remains to be seen, but for now, the Mets still have Wheeler fever.