Yankees nearly landed Mets’ No. 2 starting pitcher in deal but failed physical blew it up

Alexander Wilson
Will the New York Yankees land Zack Wheeler in free agency?
Jul 7, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) pitches in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees desperately need a quality starting pitcher to pair with Gerrit Cole at the top of the rotation, but finding one has been increasingly tricky, with teams spending big money to scoop up available talent.

General manager Brian Cashman has done the minimum to take high-upside risks with starters like Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, but both are injury prone and proved as much during the 2020 season. The Yankees had a one-year, $25 million deal on the table for Justin Verland, but the deal fell through when Houston offered a play-option for a 2nd season at $25 million — two years, $50 million.

Cashman may be lavish with his spending at times, but he wasn’t going to take a crazy risk on Verlander coming off Tommy John surgery. Nonetheless, the Yanks didn’t do anything before the lockout to inject talent in the rotation.

The Bombers could’ve been riding high with a former Met right now, just barely failing to acquire one of their starters back in 2019.

According to Andy Martino of SNY, the Yankees nearly grabbed Zack Wheeler from the Mets when Brodie Van Wagenen was the team’s general manager.

Cashman and Brodie Van Wagenen engaged in intense trade talks at times, once even agreeing to send Zack Wheeler to the Bronx until another player in the deal failed on medicals. Don’t expect the same with Eppler.

Wheeler currently plays for the Philadelphia Phillies and is coming off his best season to date with a 2.78 ERA and 3.18 SIERA (Skill interactive ERA). Those numbers indicate a tremendous performance from Wheeler, who saw a healthy increase with his fastball to 97 MPH this past season. Given Zack’s improvement over the past two seasons, Cashman is likely frustrated he wasn’t able to get a deal done. He would’ve been a perfect compliment to Cole in the No. 2 slot.

The Yankees have boiled down to a few starting pitching options with free agency 2.0 coming up once the lockout ends. They could target an option like Carlos Rodon, but his small sample size of success is rather concerning, or Clayton Kershaw, whose injury history is muddled.

Maybe Cashman even makes a trade for a pitcher, utilizing some of his youth talents in the process as bait. One way or another, the team won’t get any better if they continue to instill faith in oft-injured players like Luis Severino, Taillon, and even Domingo German.