Per MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, the Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, Minnesota Twins, and Chicago White Sox are considered the leaders to land Wheeler in a contract that should eclipse the $100 million mark.
A name the Mets should consider: Madison Bumgarner
New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s plans regarding a fifth starter are currently unclear as we descend into the heart of Major League Baseball’s offseason.
The Mets are currently expected to lose Zack Wheeler, who turned down the team’s $17.8 million qualifying offer to test the waters of free agency.
Wheeler is poised to become a rich man as one of the best arms available on the market this winter despite a 2019 season in which he posted a 3.96 ERA.
His departure will leave the Mets with a singular, noticeable void in an otherwise solid-looking starting rotation that will feature Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard. The latter — who has been the subject of trade rumors dating back to 2018 — is officially not for sale, according to Van Wagenen earlier this week.
Pipe dreamers around the Mets fan base will fantasize about Van Wagenen getting the green light from the Wilpons to go after Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg — the top two arms of the free-agent market this offseason.
Their price tags, however, will likely be far too rich for the Wilpon family’s liking as both right-handers could receive over $200 million. Cole could be even higher at $250 million after the dominant season he put together for the Houston Astros.
Given ownership’s history, the perceived course of action is that the Mets will turn to an existing option in their ranks — whether that is Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman — or they’ll find a journeyman arm on the cheap.
But there is a top-tier name out there that can be cheaper than Strasburg or Cole and could give the Mets one of the most imposing starting rotations in the game: Madison Bumgarner.
The 30-year-old southpaw had one of his poorest seasons as a pro in 2019 on a bad Giants team. His 3.90 ERA and 30 home runs allowed both were career worsts.
Yet he led the majors with 34 starts, eclipsed the 200-innings mark for the seventh time in his career, and walked just 43 batters compared to 203 strikeouts for an impressive 4.72 SO/W ratio.
There was even a 13-start stretch from Jun. 25 to Aug. 30 in which Bumgarner went 6-1 with a 2.81 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 84 innings.
After two injury-riddled seasons, his stuff is still there.
In New York, he wouldn’t have to shoulder nearly as much within a deep starting rotation where he could be the No. 3 man behind deGrom and Syndergaard.
He would also be moving to another pitcher-friendly park in Citi Field where he’ll have a better opportunity to get back to his old ways.
After all, entering the 2019 season, Bumgarner had a career ERA of 3.03.
When the lights are brightest, the southpaw is at his best, which will fare well on the big stage of New York.
For a Mets team on the cusp of contention, acquiring one of the best postseason pitchers of this generation would be an enormous acquisition.
In 16 playoff appearances, Bumgarner is 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA. He’s even better in the World Series, possessing a 4-0 record in four starts while allowing just a single run in 36 innings of work.
That past resume will play a large part as to why his next contract will be as much as it is. But Bumgarner could be had for a price between $155 million and $175 million.
It’s certainly a pretty penny, but it’s considerably less than what they’d have to dish out for Cole or Strasburg while creating a rotation that would go as follows:
If Brodie Van Wagenen could then shore up his bullpen, the Mets will be in serious business for 2020.