It’s been expected all along that the Mets would keep prospect right-hander Zack Wheeler in the minors until June, in part to delay his service time, but here we are. Mike Puma of the New York Post was told by a “high-ranking team official” that Wheeler is expected to make 2-3 starts with Triple-A Las Vegas before joining the Mets. This would place his major league debut somewhere in the range of June 6 or 11.
Wheeler recently had a minor scare due to some soreness in the AC joint in his right shoulder, but everything checked out OK. For what it’s worth, the team official told Puma that Wheeler may have already been in the majors it wasn’t for the minor setback. It ends up making for a convenient excuse in the end, as the Mets won’t have to worry about his Super Two status by early June.
Wheeler, 22, allowed three runs in five innings in his return to action Wednesday and owns a 3.91 ERA and 49/20 K/BB ratio in 48 1/3 innings over eight starts this season in Triple-A. Matt Harvey’s early success has set the bar pretty high, but the Mets are hoping Wheeler can be the next core piece in their rebuilding effort.
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.