The Mets will lose Zack Wheeler if they don’t lock him up soon

Posted: October 16, 2014 in Opinion
Tags: , ,

indexBy Steven Inman 

The recent trend in baseball is locking up young stars to long-term deals before they are eligible for arbitration, let alone free agency. These deals are usually very team-friendly, such as the Rays contract with superstar Evan Longoria. Longoria received a six years $17.5 million during his rookie year in 2008. Tampa got a superstar that they drafted on the cheap through his prime and Longoria got financial security. It doesn’t appear as if those deals really exist anymore.

Last winter the Atlanta Braves locked up young star Andrelton Simmons to a seven year $58 million contract. Simmons is still a work in progress with the bat and wasn’t even arbitration eligible until this winter, hardly a discount. I’m a big fan of Simmons but for that price they may have been better off going year to year. The point is by the time these players are in their 3rd or 4th year and have established themselves; they are already a fortune to keep.

There just doesn’t seem to be hometown discounts anymore. Another Braves player, Julio Teheran just got over $30 million after just his rookie year. This doesn’t bode well for the Mets and some of their young talent such as Zack Wheeler.

Unless players get locked up during their first two years, they seem to be getting monster contracts. Wheeler in less than 300 big league innings has already proven to be a quality starting pitcher in the big leagues. That means it’s already time to get paid.

The good news is Wheeler,23, won’t be a free agent for five more years, but let’s just say he establishes himself in 2015 as a top of the rotation pitcher. After the season he can tell the Mets he won’t sign long term for under $60 million or so. Another season it goes to $75 million or so and will continue to escalate.

Wheeler was 8-3 with a 2.71 ERA over his last 16 starts of the season.

Homer Bailey of the Reds got six years $105 million last year, not because he is a great pitcher but because he eats innings and was one year away from free agency. Money in baseball is getting out of hand and it is up to the Mets to lock up some of their young talent now like the Braves are doing.

The Mets did a good job of this a few seasons back when they signed Jon Niese to a five-year contract extension. Niese looked promising but with all of his injury questions he was hardly a sure thing at the time. If the Mets brought that contract to Niese today, he for sure wouldn’t sign it. Now Niese is a young left-handed pitcher locked up long-term and could bring a good return in a trade.

If the Mets wait a few years, players like Wheeler or even Matt Harvey may decide to just go year by year in arbitration until they hit free agency where they will sign elsewhere for significant dollars.

A six year contract worth around $40-45 million with a couple of team options would give Wheeler the security he is looking for while ensuring that Wheeler will be a Met throughout his prime.

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