Zack Wheeler very well may have played his last game as a member of the New York Mets. After declining the qualifying offer from the Mets, the 29-year-old pitcher is now free to sign wherever he wants. But, the Mets should do their best to re-sign Wheeler. If they let him walk, they will have a massive hole in their starting pitching rotation.
The Mets' offseason needs are pretty simple. They need to fix their bullpen. Whether it's Wheeler or someone else, it's still very important that they also address the fifth slot in their starting pitching staff. It would make a lot of sense for the Mets to re-sign Wheeler. He's in the prime of his career, and finally coming into his own after injuries plagued him early on in his career. In 2019, Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA, along with a 195 strikeouts and an 11-8 record. Most importantly, he pitched in a career-high 195.1 innings.
Wheeler has shown over the last few seasons that he can remain healthy, and that he's an effective number two or three starter. While the Mets do have Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Steven Matz, they would be missing a fifth member to this staff if they let Wheeler walk. Of course, there are several other options.
Perhaps they could put someone like Seth Lugo into the starting rotation. While he could be an effective starter, this would make their bullpen significantly worse. Lugo has turned into one of the more dominant and dynamic relief pitchers in all of baseball. It'd be a tough loss for the bullpen if he went back to being a starting pitcher. The Mets could also sign another free agent starting pitcher for a cheaper price, however, it'd be very unlikely for that pitcher to perform as well as Wheeler.
Of course, there are obstacles to re-signing Wheeler. The main issue is price. Wheeler is going to get a nice contract, probably somewhere in the range of a five year/$100 million deal. The Mets may not be willing to hand out a contract like that. They are already paying Jacob deGrom handsomely. For Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Steven Matz, they'll be looking for new contracts at some point too. Most notably, Stroman is a free agent after the 2020 season. So, perhaps the Mets would have to choose between re-signing Wheeler or extending Stroman. It's just so difficult to retain everyone, as good as this staff is.
It will not be easy for the Mets to replace Wheeler is he signs elsewhere. He's continuing to improve, and it would not be surprising to see him one day be the ace of another team's staff. As much money as the Mets will potentially have lined up into their starting pitching staff, they should still try to make a push to re-sign Wheeler.
The Mets have other needs this offseason, but it'd be pretty big for this team if they were able to bring back Zack Wheeler. This is going to be an interesting offseason. Stay tuned.