A look at who the Yankees, Braves, Cubs and Red Sox might be willing to send to the New York Mets in a realistic Zack Wheeler trade.
According to Andy Martino, Wheeler is a “pitcher in demand,” with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox fighting to get a deal done. Martino also mentions that the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs have interest in the Mets hurler.
Martino had previously reported that Wheeler is expected to garner a team’s top-10 prospect in a trade. That means the Mets should be able to grab at least one exciting prospect from one of these teams.
The Braves interest in Zack Wheeler shouldn’t come as a surprise considering they’re young and inexperienced in the rotation. Wheeler also grew up in Georgia, a hometown happenstance the Braves always love.
So what could the Braves offer the Mets in a deal? I know most would prefer the Mets charge the Braves a division rival premium and try to pry a prospect like Drew Waters away, but that’s not likely to happen. The more realistic targets for the Mets are Kolby Allard, Joey Wentz or Kyle Muller. The most attractive option out of these three, by far, is Kolby Allard.
Kolby Allard is a 21-year-old lefty who made his major league debut last year. He struggled mightily with an ERA north of 12 in eight innings pitched. Allard has seen a downtick in his numbers at AAA this year with his 3.83 ERA up from 2.72 last year. These struggles mostly come from the home run ball. He allowed only six HR in 112.1 IP last year, but has allowed 12 HR in 94 IP this year.
The juiced ball that has been used in MLB has also (most likely) been used in AAA this year. That has had a major effect on the pitchers at that level, and Allard has been no exception. His other numbers are stable allowing 3.1 BB/9 this year, compared to 2.7 a year ago. He also showcases a 7.6 K/9 this year compared to 7.1 the campaign prior. Allard hasn’t given any statistical reason to believe that he has regressed.
From a pure stuff standpoint, Kolby is a prototypical crafty left-hander. His fastball sits high-80s to low-90s. While his fastball doesn’t pop the glove, Allard does command the pitch well. The pitch also gets enough movement that hitters can’t sit on it.
Allard’s bread and butter are his breaking balls with both his curveball and his changeup grading out as above-average pitches. Allard’s curveball has a two-plane 12-6 break, the pitch sits in the mid-70s. This is Allard’s strikeout pitch, but the lack of a good fastball has left some wondering how effective it can be at the major league level. His changeup sits low-80s, and when it’s on, has good arm side break that can get right-handed hitters off balance.
The biggest issue for Allard is that his gameplans are often too predictable. He’s going to attack right-handed hitters away with his changeup and fastball, with the occasional curveball in two-strike counts. Major league hitters are going to be able to just sit away if he continues to pitch this way. The good news is that at 21-years-old Allard has time to figure out the best way to attack hitters.
He does a good job of changing hitters’ eye levels, which has made the best use of his breaking ball. That won’t be as effective at the major league level, so Allard’s going to have to attack right-handed hitters inside. If the Mets have to deal Zack Wheeler to the Braves, Allard would be a solid piece to get back. The kid has the potential to step into the rotation as early as 2020.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are an awful match for the Mets pertaining to a Zack Wheeler trade, as they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. They would likely have to give up one of their top five prospects to get a deal done.
Their top prospect is Triston Casas, who plays the corner infield. That’s the last thing the Mets system needs. Even if they wanted Casas, it’s not likely that he would be included in a deal for a rental.
Next is Bobby Dalbec, who also plays 3B. Dalbec is hitting .229, that said he does have a .370 OBP and has hit 19 HRs. If the Mets are looking for power and defense, Dalbec is the guy for them. Prospects three-through-five are all pitchers who have either struggled or haven’t pitched at all this year due to injury.
The Red Sox simply don’t have the firepower to get a deal done for Wheeler in this competitive market, but a deal was struck it would likely be centered around their number five prospect Tanner Houck.
Houck is a big righty standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 210 pounds. Houck is 23-years-old and has spent all of this season at AA. His ERA is up at 4.30, the highest in his short career, with 3.5 BB/9, and 8.7 K/9. Those are not the numbers of a top prospect, but that’s the state of the Red Sox farm system.
Tanner Houck is a bet on projection as his pure stuff is very good. He throws a two-seam fastball with heavy sink that sits in the low to mid-90s. His best breaking ball is an above-average slider that sits in the low 80s and has more vertical drops than horizontal sweep.
Both Houck’s fastball and slider are extremely effective against right-handed hitters. He also throws a curveball that is just average, which he has relied on more than his slider this year. The Red Sox wanted Houck to focus on his curveball because they are determined to make him a starter, according to MLB.com.
Houck also throws a changeup that he rarely uses that is fringe-average. He mostly uses it as a change-of-pace pitch against lefties to keep them guessing.
Tanner is most likely ticketed for the back end of a bullpen, but if he can find consistency, he might just surprise and become a mid-rotation starter. If that does happen, it’s not likely going to be until 2021. This would be a disappointing haul for Zack Wheeler, to say the least.
The Cubs interest in Zack Wheeler is interesting. They have the third-best team ERA in the NL and four of their starters have ERA better than Wheeler’s. The lone exception being Yu Darvish, who is under a long term big money contract.
Wheeler’s fit into their rotation is not clear at first glance. If they do really have interest in making a deal, they would have to likely have to pay more than they want. The Cubs have a weak farm system and would likely have to deal from their top-eight prospects. That seems like a pretty steep price for a team who is looking to add to a strength rather than fix a weakness.
If a deal between the Mets and Cubs does come to fruition, the one guy to keep an eye on is Brennen Davis.
Brennen Davis is a 19-year-old Right-handed outfield prospect. Davis stands at 6-foot-4, weighing only 175 pounds. That gives Davis plenty of room to grow into his already impressive power. He is playing in A-ball this year where he is slashing .297/.386/.478. Davis has struck out 32 times this year to 16 walks. He has hit 4 HR, 7 2B and 3 3B in 138 ABs this year. That’s good for a 10.1% extra-base hit rate, and to put that in context, Ronald Acuna Jr. has a 9.4% extra-base hit rate this year. Brennen also has 4 stolen bases this year and has played well defensively.
Davis can play any of the three OF positions but has mostly split time between CF and LF. These numbers are especially encouraging for a guy who is in his first season playing baseball full time.
Brennen Davis is as toolsy as they come. The former basketball player carries all of that athleticism form the court onto the diamond. Davis best tool is his speed, which grades out as plus-plus. That is extraordinary for a guy his size and should allow Davis to stay in CF long term. While base stealing isn’t a big part of Davis’s game right now, his speed should make him a lethal base stealer as time goes on. He still has to learn how to steal bases and get his overall baseball IQ up, but those skills will come with time. Brennen’s speed plays a huge part in him grading out as an above average defender, as does his arm. Davis doesn’t have a rocket, but his arm is above average and should play up in CF.
Offensively, Davis is a power-over-hitter prospect. He grades out as plus future power due to his large frame and room for projection. On the flip side, Davis’s hit tool only grades out as average due to lack of feel for hitting at this point. He has struggled somewhat with plate discipline striking out 23.2% of the time. This isn’t enough to cause a concern right now as that is around league average, but it is worth noting. Pitch recognition is another one of Davis’s weaknesses, but he still has plenty of time to overcome it.
If the Mets are looking for a lottery ticket for the future to join the ranks of Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos, Shervyen Newton and Brett Baty, Brennen Davis is about as good as it gets. This is a kid who has 30-30 potential in CF and is much farther along than anyone would have thought at this time last year.
Of course, with any prospect in A-ball, there is a reason to be skeptical as he is still years away from the majors, but this would be an exciting addition to a Mets farm system is bereft of impact OF prospects. You can’t do much better from a raw talent perspective than Brennen Davis in a potential Zack Wheeler deal.
New York Yankees
The Yankees are desperate for a fifth starter. Happ has been awful and they have dealt with injuries throughout the season. Their reported interest in Zack Wheeler should come as no surprise. The question is more about how much the Yankees are going to be willing to give up. While there have been reports that the Mets and Yankees would be willing to deal, that hasn’t happened in a long time.
The Wilpons will likely have a say in any deal that comes close, and that could throw a wrench into things. Of course, the Mets would love to pry Estevan Florial or Deivi Garcia from the Yankees, but they aren’t moving them. Clint Fraizer is also a non-starter. There is one name that is brought up when reports talk of a potential Mets-Yankees Wheeler deal, and that is the Yankees number three prospect Albert Abreu.
Albert Abreu is a 23-year-old right-handed starting pitcher. Abreu stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 175 pounds, which leaves some room for projection as his body continues to fill out. He is currently pitching in AA where he has struggled. He sports a reasonable 3.82 ERA down from his 4.16 ERA in A+ last year.
However, Abreu has seen a drop in his strikeouts this season dropping from 9.2 K/9 to 8.4 K/9, but that isn’t the biggest deal. The real issue with Abreu’s numbers is his walks, which are astronomically high. Abreu’s walk rate is 5.5 BB/9, that’s absurdly high. He’s always had walk issues, but this is well above his career average of 4.4 BB/9. The fact Abreu has managed to keep his ERA down with that walk rate suggests some extreme luck, which is backed up by his 4.37 XFIP.
Albert Abreu has the best stuff of any of these pitchers. His best pitch is his fastball, which grades out as plus-plus. His fastball sits mid to high-90s and has touched as high as 101. The pitch has good sink, making it very hard for hitters to make solid contact. The issue is that the sink on the fastball has made it difficult for Abreu to control. Mets fans should think about Jeurys Familia when thinking about Abreu’s sinker. When it’s on it’s almost unhittable, but more often than not he has no control and turns into a “walk machine.”
Abreu also throws a plus power curveball. The pitch fetches nice 12-6 break and sits in the mid-80s. This is Abreu’s strikeout pitch, and when it’s on, makes righties look foolish. Abreu still hasn’t figured out the best way to work it in against lefties, whom he attacks with his changeup. Abreu’s changeup grades out as above average due to the arm side fade he gets on the pitch. His changeup usually sits in the low-80s.
Abreu had been wiping out lefties with the pitch in the low minors but has not found the same success with the pitch at A+ or AA. Instead, he seems to have lost his command of the pitch, with it often dropping out of the strike zone or flattening out in the middle of the plate.
If Albert Abreu can find his command, he is going to be a front line starting pitcher. That is the kind of potential he has with this stuff. The issue is that his command has gotten worse as he’s gone along. It seems more and more likely with each passing start that Abreu might be destined for the bullpen in the near future. Still, the potential that his stuff offers might be too tempting for the Mets to pass up in a potential Zack Wheeler deal.