The New York Mets got a gem out of Walker Lockett yesterday, but they still would like to get Zack Wheeler back. Wheeler hasn’t pitched since July 7th after landing on the injured list with shoulder fatigue, but it looks as if the righty won’t be out much longer. Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway told reporters on Friday that Wheeler needed to throw a full bullpen session before he rejoined the rotation, but when that will happen remains to be seen.
Wheeler is not in the Mets’ tentative rotation for their upcoming series with the San Diego Padres, Tim Healey of Newsday reports. The Mets could activate Wheeler as soon as Tuesday, but with Callaway’s insistence he needs a full bullpen before returning it is fair to wonder if the Mets will want him to make a rehab start. Every Mets’ starter has had a brief run on the injured list this year, but two (Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz) returned without a rehab start while Jason Vargas and Noah Syndergaard made one.
A rehab start could be problematic for the Mets, who are running out of time to shop Wheeler before the July 31 trade deadline. There is no longer a waiver trade deadline, so if the Mets can’t move Wheeler on July 31 he will remain with them for the rest of the season. This is a disappointing development for the Mets, who were hoping to cash in on Wheeler and get some kind of return before he hits free agency, but his poorly timed injury may zap any value that Wheeler has.
If Wheeler ends up needing a rehab start, the Mets won’t really have the opportunity to demonstrate he is healthy before the deadline. That could create a situation where the Mets end up keeping Wheeler and extending the qualifying offer, which would give them draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. Whether that makes sense for them, and what happens if Wheeler were to accept it, is a discussion worth revisiting if he is still on the roster on August 1.