It was a foregone conclusion that the New York Mets were going to lose Zack Wheeler this winter.
After the 29-year-old right-hander declined his $17.8 million qualifying offer from the organization he spent the past seven seasons with, he was in line for big bucks on his next contract.
And we know how the Mets are when it comes to shelling out big bucks.
Sure enough, Wednesday afternoon made it official: Wheeler is on his way to Philadelphia of all places to join the Phillies on a reported five-year, $118 million deal.
It’s bad enough for the Mets that they just opened a gaping hole at the bottom of their rotation. But there is added salt to the wound that Wheeler is joining a divisional rival.
This just hours after another NL East team, the Atlanta Braves, signed Cole Hamels to bolster their rotation.
The thing is, it’s a self-inflicted wound.
According to the New York Post’s Mike Puma, the Mets never offered Wheeler a contract after the qualifying offer was turned down.
Still, Wheeler showed his loyalty to the club by circling back to the Mets before signing with the Phillies. The Mets did nothing and now the deal is done.
For the next five years, the Mets can now watch Wheeler help Joe Girardi challenge for an NL East crown — a goal that Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen apparently wants to attain, too.
Any of those promises about the team going for it now, though, simply isn’t true until proven otherwise.
Wheeler’s departure now leaves a sizable hole at the bottom of the Mets’ rotation — although the starting staff is still in a good place with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Steven Matz still in the fold.
It leaves Van Wagenen with two avenues — though his hands are likely tied thanks to the Wilpons’ frugality.
Either he can go out and sign a big-name free-agent like Madison Bumgarner or he promotes from within.
The logical option would be to get an arm like Bumgarner, who is still just 29, the best postseason pitcher of this generation, and is expected to get a contract cheaper than Wheeler’s.
But the Mets reportedly have a limited budget this season thanks to the stingy Wilpon family, which means a fringe arm like Robert Gsellman — who has struggled over the past two years — would be the No. 5 starter.
Which option would you rather have?
If the Mets truly want to win now, they go get Bumgarner.
If they want to make false promises of contention just to get butts in the seats, they’ll look for the cheap fix.