The Wheeler Dilemma

With the early-season injuries to Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum, and on the doorstep of watching Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey take the hill against division rivals, the questions have to be asked: Why isn’t Zack Wheeler in Queens? When will he be ready? What is John Maine doing this weekend?

While the educated Mets fan (is there any other kind?) knows that Wheeler isn’t quite ready for primetime, many would love to see the “future” of the Mets this year. After all, I don’t think anyone is predicting that we’ll battle the Nats and Braves for the pennant. So what, exactly do the Mets have to lose? The answer: what every strong relationship is built on…Money and Control.

Without going into boring-I-could-Google-it-and-nerd-pocket-protector-contract stuff, know that if the Mets bring up Wheeler before mid-June, they lose contract control for an extra year for the young stud. If they delay the process, they increase control through, potentially, 2019. And contract control saves the Mets money. But I’ll be 63 by 2019, or at least I’ll feel like I’m 63 if the Mets continue to raise my blood pressure each summer. And with attendance, well, lacking in the first three games this year, it would make sense to give fans a big reason to get to the ballpark at least every fifth day.

Wheeler has to be better than Laffey. Hell, I think Silas Wheeler would be better than Laffey (Google that one, kids). The team is saying Wheeler needs to refine some command, work on extra pitches – all the same front office quotes we see when referring to a young, emerging pitcher. But it really comes down to money. And, anything that could potentially cost the Wilpons more money has to be poo-poo’d at this point (thanks, Bernie).

Expect to see Wheeler around June, when we’ve gone through enough 4th and 5th starters to field a rugby team. That will be the time the Mets say Wheeler has found his command or learned another go-to pitch. But we’ll all know the real reason. Cha-Ching.

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