SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Zack Wheeler for one more year was in the Mets’ plans, but can the organization stomach a potential bidding war for him?
The right-hander took a leap toward departing the Mets on Thursday when – as expected – he declined the club’s qualifying offer for 2020 worth $17.8 million. Wheeler will now explore a potential mega-deal, with teams such as the Braves, Yankees, Dodgers and Angels in need of starting pitching and possibly willing to pay big.
If Wheeler signs with another club, the Mets would receive draft-pick compensation because the qualifying offer is attached to him. Wheeler went 11-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts for the Mets last season.
Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Marcus Stroman give the Mets a solid four starters for next season’s rotation, but Wheeler’s departure would leave the team searching for a fifth.
Among the possibilities general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has discussed is moving Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman from relief to the rotation, but such a maneuver would subtract from a bullpen that is already a team weakness.
The free-agent market for middle-to-back-end starters includes names such as Rick…