New York Mets: Three potential free agent replacements for Zack Wheeler

Will the New York Yankees land Zack Wheeler in free agency?
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The New York Mets have a strong core in place, one that will probably guarantee a competitive team in 2020. However, there are still some areas of need, particularly a true center fielder and at least one additional starter to round out the rotation.

Zack Wheeler, who had a 3.96 ERA (3.48 FIP) in 195.1 innings with a 8.98 K/9 and 2.30 BB/9, was a very durable starter for the Mets the last two years after he overcame three seasons of injuries and ineffectiveness. He will be departing for Philadelphia, where he is going to slot behind Aaron Nola in the rotation after signing a five-year, $118 million pact this Wednesday.

Completing the New York Mets rotation

New York’s rotation will now be highlighted by the reigning, two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. He will be followed by righties Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman, with lefty Steven Matz as the fourth starter. The fifth spot is up for grabs.



It is unlikely that the team targets one of the two “tier one” options, Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. It remains to be seen whether the Mets pursue one of the “tier two” hurlers (Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, or Dallas Keuchel) or if they bring someone cheaper, with the big arbitration raises of some players in mind (mainly deGrom.)

Given that the most likely scenario has each of the three mentioned pitchers in the “tier two” inking deals with other clubs, here are some potential free agency targets to replace the newly-departed Wheeler:

Michael Pineda

A 60-game suspension for taking banned substances took away what remained of his season in early September, but up to that point, the right-hander was having a very good season. He finished the year with a 4.01 ERA and a 4.02 FIP in 146 innings with the Minnesota Twins. He registered 8.63 K/9 and 1.73 BB/9 while finishing with 2.7 fWAR.

The fact he is still suspended for the first few weeks of the season shouldn’t stop the Mets from pursuing him, as he will likely have to settle for a one-year, prove-it deal between $10 and $13 million, probably with an option.

His signature changeup generated 4.8 runs above average in Fangraphs’ pitch value chart. It is a thing of beauty. Here, you can see his fastball-changeup combo in action:

https://twitter.com/ParkerHageman/status/1114598962781151232?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Rick Porcello

Relying on Porcello to be your team’s ace or number two would probably drive you nuts. However, having him as a fourth or fifth starter would be a welcome development. He could command a two or three-year pact at $9-$10m AAV, which won’t break the bank.

At worst, Porcello is a league-average innings eater that will pitch nearly 200 innings. At best, well, he can win a Cy Young, as he did in 2016.

Although he is coming from a 5.52-ERA season and is not nearly the same hurler than that 2016 dude, the Mets can consider him. There is bounceback potential and he could stand to benefit from pitching in the National League. He has eight seasons of at least 2.0 fWAR.

Homer Bailey

Bailey represents the best bet to outperform his (likely) contract. He can probably be had at a one-year deal at approximately $5 or $6 million. At that price, the New York Mets should definitely consider him.

On the strength of his awesome splitter, he managed to help the Athletics in their road to the playoffs this year. He came from the Kansas City Royals in a trade and had a 4.30 ERA in 73.1 frames with Oakland.

Here is the phenomenal splitter in action:



Bailey can thrive as the Mets‘ fifth starter.