Report: Zack Wheeler expected to make 2-3 starts in minors before joining Mets

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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.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.