With the ceremonial second half of the season underway, we are now just over two weeks from the Trade Deadline. This is the time of the year for rumors and speculation, but it is also the time of the year when general managers have to decide what direction to take their ball club. The New York Mets were one of the more proactive teams this off-season, trading for Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz, as well as acquiring catcher Wilson Ramos and bringing back Jeurys Familia. This, combined with the emergence of young stars, made the team from Queens a favorite to compete for the division heading into the season. To this point, however, things have not gone according to plan for the crosstown rivals. With a record of 40-51 and currently sitting 14 1/2 games out of fist place, the Mets may very well be in selling mode over the next few weeks. With that being said, first on their trading block appears to be pending free agent Zack Wheeler.
As the Yankees look to run and hide in the division and contend for a World Series title, and the Red Sox look to secure the top Wild Card seed, there is plenty incentive for both teams to pursue Wheeler as a rotation option. The starting pitcher has had a better campaign than his 4.69 ERA would suggest, averaging 6+ innings per start over his 19 starts this season. His track record also suggests that he gets stronger as the season wears on, posting a 9-1 record with a 1.68 ERA in the second half of last season. So what leverage do the Yankees have? Their No. 4 prospect, Deivi Garcia, started the Futures Game last weekend and could figure to be a trade chip in any Wheeler discussions. The 20-year-old has a fastball in the 96-97 MPH range, which has helped him rack up 114 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings between Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. This past week he was promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. And then, of course, there’s Clint Frazier who’s time in Pinstripes could truly be coming to an end.
It was reported by Ken Rosenthal earlier this week that Boston was “pushing to land” a starting pitcher. For the Red Sox, they could use the second coming of Nathan Eovaldi. Zack Wheeler might not quite be that guy, but he would certainly be an improvement from the 5+ ERA turned in by the fill-in fifth starters in Eovaldi’s absence. The World Champs are keeping their options open and will reportedly be moving the flame-throwing Eovaldi to the closer role when healthy. In addition, Steven Wright, who had been suspended/injured until just recently, has been approached by management about assuming an “opener” role as a solution to the fifth starter situation. The knuckleballer is a starting pitcher by trade and has shown to be effective over 2-3 innings at a time. Since the Red Sox do not boast the same prospect pool as the Yankees, it will be interesting to see what they would potentially have to offer for Wheeler. The veteran, versatile infielder/outfielder Brock Holt is one name that comes to mind as a potential trade piece. It remains to be seen where Zack Wheeler will be playing come August 1, but it could very well be in the A.L. East.