So what’s the hurry, getting Zack Wheeler up to New York?
Such a question would have sounded ridiculous just a couple of weeks ago. But after Dillon Gee’s performance last night, there’s no obvious answer for who should head to the bullpen when Wheeler is brought up from Triple-A Las Vegas.
Gee’s past two starts: 14 1/3 innings, two runs, one walk, 19 strikeouts. Jeremy Hefner, the obvious choice to move to the bullpen given his past experience relieving, has been excellent over his past three starts: 19 innings, six runs, three walks, 19 strikeouts. Even Shaun Marcum, over his last three starts, has pitched 19 2/3 innings. Ten runs over that time is a bit high, but he’s walked three, and struck out 23. These are Matt Harvey-like peripherals.
Incidentally, leaving aside the issue of Hefner’s demonstrated ability to pitch out of the bullpen, I’m a little surprised by how much the consensus seems to be that Gee clearly deserves a spot in the rotation ahead of Hefner. My guess is this has mostly to do with how they were acquired, with Gee coming up through the system, Hefner a scrap heap pickup.
But is Gee clearly a better prospect at this point? Both are 27; Gee is a month and 17 days younger. Hefner’s career xFIP is 4.25, Gee’s 4.14. And Hefner’s been more consistent this year, he’s stayed healthier throughout his career, while Gee’s last two starts are also his only two notably good ones this year. That’s not a hugely compelling case for Hefner over Gee, but it isn’t the reverse, either.
Now given the rarity with which the Mets have a surplus of anything lately, this could be mistaken for a problem itself. It’s not. The Mets have no long man, unless you consider Collin McHugh or Robert Carson viable pitchers at this point, and there’s simply not much evidence that they are. They have one starter, Jon Niese, who just missed a start and complained of sharp pain in his shoulder. He’s been cleared for Saturday, but I’ll wait and see him first before taking the word of this team on an injury.
Moreover, the bulk of the success for the non-Harveys, which has improved their overall numbers to respectability (or better, if you go by FIP instead of xFIP), has primarily come over the past few weeks, at the expense of three pretty terrible offenses: the Yankees, Marlins and Nationals. So the extent to which this is competition-based will become clearer in the weeks ahead.
Add in the obvious advantage in getting a pitcher out of Las Vegas ASAP, and Wheeler should be up soon. But remarkably, the four other Mets’ pitchers have made his ascension a more difficult baseball decision than it appeared to be a few weeks ago, when Wheeler could have replaced any of the four without much protest from anyone.