The journey to the trade deadline is almost complete. In one week’s time, we’ll know if Brian Cashman was able to make improvements beyond adding Zach Britton. There’s definitely a chance the Yankees general manager doesn’t like the cost of the starting pitchers available and holds steady, but the need to improve is obvious. The fact that Luis Cessa is in the rotation makes that abundantly clear.
The problem for the Yankees lies in the fact that although the need is obvious, the available options are not.
The most ideal targets or candidates belong to the Mets, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Even though the latter just went on the disabled list with hand, foot, and mouth disease, he and deGrom represent the top-tier of potential trade targets. Unfortunately, they don’t seem keen on the idea of trading either of the two. They would need to be overwhelmed to consider moving either of their two aces. That doesn’t even include any potential Yankee premium they might charge.
However, just because they may not want to trade their aces, it doesn’t mean the Mets aren’t open for business. Having just traded closer Jeurys Familia to the Athletics, the team essentially put up an “open for business” sign. They’re open to listening to offers on their aces, but a trade just doesn’t seem likely. Fortunately, the Mets do have more to offer than just deGrom or Syndergaard.
Mets are engaging teams on their aces (in case) but since they seek major league talent back for deGrom or Syndergaard, they see wintertime as a better opportunity to deal an ace. Contenders loathe to subtract from teams in a pennant race.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 22, 2018
Wheeler remains the 1 likely mets starter to go. Said to be about a half-dozen teams with interest.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 22, 2018
Meanwhile, the Yankees had already started their legwork on Wheeler before the All-Star break.
A Yankees-Mets trade still seems quite unlikely. But the Yankees have recently inquired about Zack Wheeler, who has pitched better of late. Since June 1, he has a 3.44 ERA for the Mets. Perhaps, it’s just due diligence.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) July 12, 2018
Now the question of whether Wheeler can help the Yankees presents itself. The short answer is “yes.” The long answer is “yes, he can.”
Wheeler’s numbers overall, like most potential trade targets out there, don’t inspire a great deal of confidence. Going into last night’s start against the Padres, Wheeler had a 4.44 ERA across 107.1 innings pitched. His peripherals, however, are better. He’s allowing less than one home run per nine and has a 3.74 FIP. His numbers don’t stand out as best in the league, but his peripherals show he’s among the league’s better rotation arms.
While his numbers on the season haven’t been great, he’s another potential target that’s been trending upwards as of late. As Marc Carig pointed out, Wheeler’s turned a corner since June 1, pitching to a 3.61 ERA. In that time frame, his peripherals have held steady as well, so he’s generating better results. His potential is also greater than some of the other suggested trade candidates, like Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ. The biggest obstacle for any potential trade would be the cost.
The team has already said they’re not willing to part with any of their top prospects for rental players. Wheeler, however, doesn’t qualify here. He’ll be entering his third year of arbitration eligibility next year, so he’s someone the Yankees would be able to rely on for a while. He’s someone that can potentially be paired towards the top of the rotation behind ace Luis Severino.
That’s not to say the Yankees should “give up the farm” for Wheeler, either. Nor is that something the organization will do, regardless of what I say. The point is that Wheeler has the potential to be great, but at the very least is pretty good and he’s not someone the team would lose at the end of the year. If the Yankees have to reach and give up one of their higher-end prospects, the trade-off would at least be positive.
The chances of the Mets trading either deGrom or Syndergaard, especially to the Yankees, were always slim. But if Brian Cashman can convince his Mets counterparts to play ball, pursuing Zack Wheeler is not a bad alternative.
*Season statistics provided courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.