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Mets unlikely to re-sign Zack Wheeler

Zack Wheeler

New York Mets starter Zack Wheeler rejected the team’s $17.8 million qualifying offer for the 2020 season, and Anthony DiComo of MLB. com reports that the team is unlikely to re-sign him in free agency.

DiComo states that Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has suggested that the likes of Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman could move into the rotation next season, and re-signing Wheeler would almost certainly put the Mets over the luxury tax threshold:

Two, the Mets are a little less than $20 million shy of Major League Baseball’s 2020 payroll luxury-tax threshold. There’s no guarantee they’ll stay under it given the relatively light penalty for a one-year splurge, but history suggests the team will do everything possible to keep its payroll — a number that includes the salaries of David Wright and Yoenis Céspedes, large portions of which the Mets are recouping via insurance — under the luxury-tax limit of $208 million. That means signing Wheeler would eat up most or all of their remaining funds, with nothing left to address the bullpen, the outfield or other areas of need.

There’s certainly a chance that Wheeler could still return. But a more likely scenario has the Mets shopping in cheaper starting pitching aisles. Van Wagenen said at the GM Meetings that the Mets would even be comfortable not adding a single starter, bumping either Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman — or both — to the rotation.

A number of teams are in dire need of quality starting pitching, and Wheeler should be one of the more sought-after free agents as he will undoubtedly be much cheaper than Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg.

The Mets instead may pivot to adding a number of middle relievers to bolster a bullpen that struggled mightily in 2019.