The Mets are set to place right-hander Zack Wheeler on the injured list with shoulder fatigue in his pitching arm, as Newsday’s Tim Healey first reported on Monday:
Breaking: Zack Wheeler is being placed on the injured list with right shoulder fatigue, a source says.— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) July 15, 2019
The IL move is retroactive to Friday, so the soonest he can return is July 23. That leaves Wheeler with two starts max before the trade deadline.
The 29-year-old Wheeler, who is a free agent at season’s end, was the most attractive trade chip for a Mets team that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere at 42-51, 14.5 games out of the NL East lead and six games back in the wild-card race. After a standout 2018 season, the right-hander had already reduced his value quite a bit this year by posting a 4.69 ERA and allowing a career-high 16 homers over 19 starts, but with historically inconsistent pitchers such as Andrew Cashner and Homer Bailey being moved in recent days, it seemed certain that the Mets would be able to move Wheeler and receive at least a semi-intriguing piece in return.
Now, those odds seem much less certain, though it’s still possible that with baseball having a singular trade deadline (July 31) this year, a team could take a chance on Wheeler even if he’s still hurt and hope that he recovers in time to impact a playoff race, much like the Dodgers did with pending free agent Rich Hill in 2016. Even if that happens, though, the Mets are much more likely to receive a lottery-ticket prospect than a polished, noteworthy minor-leaguer like they might’ve gotten before the injury. Of course, as Healey’s tweet suggests, there’s still a possibility that Wheeler will return before the trade deadline, and though he’s previously dealt with a stress reaction in his throwing arm — making this injured-list stint more concerning than it might seem for your average pitcher — general fatigue still doesn’t seem like the type of ailment that’s going to keep him out for the entirety of the stretch run.
Wheeler’s injury further increases the incentive for the Blue Jays to trade Marcus Stroman, the Giants to deal Madison Bumgarner, and perhaps for the Indians — despite their surge right into the heart of the wild-card race — to trade Trevor Bauer. However, as we’ve seen with the Cashner and Bailey trades, it seems that teams are more willing to take chances on starters without great track records and instead are prioritizing quality depth above all else.