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New York Mets Were Right to Send Down Zack Wheeler

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New York Mets Were Right to Send Down Zack Wheeler
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

According to Joey Nowak of Mets.com, the New York Mets have optioned 10 players down to minor league camp, including prized pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler has been superb so far and believes his demotion was due to an oblique injury he is just now recovering from.

But that is not the case.

In fact, in the article, manager Terry Collins heaps nothing but praise on Wheeler. Collins notably cites his professionalism and strong arm, which are indeed two strong traits of Wheeler. Collins also admitted Wheeler has every right to be disappointed, especially given that he only had one chance to pitch live.

Wheeler threw two quality innings in that lone outing. He gave up a hit, a walk and threw a wild pitch right away, but he settled down quickly to give up no runs with two strikeouts.

While Wheeler himself may currently feel frustration after pitching only one game, the fact is that his demotion is simply a testament to his ability. The oblique injury was unfortunate, but the Mets only needed a handful of bullpen sessions and one game to lead them to one ultimate reality: Wheeler is ready for the majors. 

Wheeler combines his lean, 6’4” frame with a long stride. His long stride, as well as the smooth mechanics and high release point in his motion, makes Wheeler’s 97-mph fastball seem even faster. He also has a tight curveball and an underrated changeup that is only getting better. Wheeler will utilize all three of these pitches effectively against major league hitters. 

But Wheeler’s demotion is not about whether he is ready for the majors; his demotion is about money and the likelihood of the Mets contending.

Chris Trotman/Getty Images
The Mets used a similar tactic on Matt Harvey last season as they look to keep both aces for an extra year before worrying about re-signing them.

The Mets are notoriously cash-strapped. If they brought up Wheeler now instead of midseason, like they did with Matt Harvey last year, then Wheeler could be eligible for Super Two arbitration in a couple years. 

Players file for arbitration after accumulating between three and six years of major league service. But Super Two arbitration means that if a player is on a major league roster for at least two years and 86 days in total, and if a couple other very likely clauses occur, that player can also apply for arbitration.

The Mets are slowly beginning to recover from their financial woes, and if they call Wheeler up in roughly July then they can afford his services for an extra year before worrying about re-signing him.

Furthermore, while Wheeler is ready to make an immediate impact, the Mets are far more likely to contend in three years than this current season.

This is in large part due to the Bernie Madoff scandal crippling their bank account.

But regardless of what is to blame, the Mets have been stuck in purgatory for the past few seasons. As a result, they have reloaded patiently with high-ceiling talent and power pitching prospects. These prospects are finally ready to make the jump to the majors over the next couple seasons.

But the 2013 Mets are not quite ready to contend. If everything goes perfectly for them they have the talent to make a surprise run, but they are currently a middle-of-the-pack team.

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Therefore, Wheeler’s impact should be felt most in 2016, not 2013. The 2016 season is when the Mets will be utilizing Wheeler’s ace talent for that cheap price tag for an extra season.

Right now, Wheeler will have to patiently dominate in Triple-A while waiting for July to roll around. As for the Mets, they have Wheeler in their back pocket, and they are now focused on role players with a shot to win position battles.

Any Mets fan should be as frustrated as Wheeler that they won’t get to see him at Citi Field right away.

But those fans should also be thankful when they get to watch this bona fide ace lead a surging Mets team for an extra season before worrying about if the front office has the funds to re-sign him.

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