Published on June 11th, 2013 | by Josh Chapdelaine


Should The Mets Have Dealt Wheeler for Upton?

Sandy Alderson was tasked with making a difficult decision last winter: Depart with the organization’s number one pitching prospect in Zack Wheeler or look to retain him to be part of the team’s long-term future. As Wheeler readies to make his major league debut next week in Atlanta against Justin Upton’s Braves, the question should be reevaluated more closely.

The 23-year-old Wheeler has been dubbed the right-handed Clayton Kershaw by some scouts, but to make the comparison between the two pitchers is unfair. Kershaw cracked the Los Angeles’ Dodgers during his age 20 season and won a Cy Young Award during his age 23 season, or precisely the same age Wheeler is set to debut. While both pitchers have electric arsenals with phenomenal secondaries, they both struggled to grip the strike zone early in their careers. Kershaw had the advantage of striking more batters out during his minor league tenure, but not by a great amount more.

The 25-year-old Justin Upton is now playing his seventh major league season and has a career .275/.357/.476 clip with 122 home runs. He’s controlled through his age 27 season in 2015 and being paid a fair amount to do so ($28.75M overall value).

The question remains: Why didn’t Alderson pull the trigger on trading Wheeler for Upton?

Hindsight may be 20-20, but this trade scenario was evident that it should have been completed during the winter. Despite the fact that Wheeler is now major league ready, the Mets are in the enviable position of boasting a wealth of pitching prospects that could potentially soften the blow of losing a player with the ceiling of Wheeler. Rafael Montero has thrown 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in Binghamton, Noah Syndergaard has done nothing but impress in the Florida State League, and Savannah’s entire rotation has been strong. When one can take a strength akin to the Mets’ minor league pitching depth and translate it to major league-proven talent that also addresses the club’s biggest offensive need, it must be done. The club wouldn’t be shipping a 20-year-old prospect for a 38-year-old veteran who is set to retire, but rather a player who could help contribute to the next five Mets playoff teams in the middle of the lineup alongside David Wright.

If money was to be a concern, it should it be noted that prior to arbitration hearings that the club has a grand total of $35M committed to next year’s payroll (and less if one accounts for Johan Santana’s buyout and commitments to Jason Bay and Bobby Bonilla). Even if the Mets weren’t set to contend in 2014, having Upton in 2015 would presumably be a very big upgrade to anything up-and-coming in the system. Barring Cesar Puello, the Mets are void of any real outfield prospects that could be a major league staple for the next decade. If and when the Mets were faced with extending Justin Upton, they’d have the payroll flexibility to retain him.

The final question remaining would involve the pieces to the trade: Would Upton-for-Wheeler been possible straight up? Not likely. Even if the deal meant that Ruben Tejada needed to be shipped to Arizona in the process, the deal still seems like it would have been fair. Both clubs would have filled voids.

The move wouldn’t have been to make the Mets a contending club in 2013. The move would have been adding a young outfielder to a club that doesn’t have solutions at the position in the pipeline for the foreseeable future.

Justin Upton is currently embattled in a slump but has posted a .247/.360/.484 clip during his tenure in Atlanta thus far with 14 home runs and eight doubles. His 1.6 bWAR is higher than the Mets’ entire outfield–combined.

Photo Credit: Michael Baron

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About the Author

Josh Chapdelaine started Around Citi in Oct. 2010 as a high school senior looking to venture into new media. The original inception of the site ran through March 2011 before Chapdelaine looked to outside endeavors. He returned to his Around Citi roots in Jan. 2013.

  • Dean Barbella

    Sandy’s right. Build the club, raising Arms on the Farm. Look at San Francisco Giants! Add the offensive pieces, as the rotation is established (2015)!

    • LETGOMETS2013

      exactly. it sound like sandy alderson is building strong pitching staff.

  • Clyde Spillenger

    The thing is that Upton is good, but not great. I wouldn’t have traded Wheeler for him and I’m glad that Sandy didn’t.

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  • Joey

    I would not have traded Wheeler for Upton, but I would trade Wheeler, Lagares, Mejia, Familia, and cash for Giancarlo Stanton.

    • cjr45

      Since Stanton is making the league minimum cash is not necessary. Wheeler is the only decent prospect in that package one of Mejia or Familia had surgery and is useless.

  • Pabalive

    Could not disagree more. Young arms are very difficult to come by. Purchasing a position player at age 27 is a much safer bet than buying a pitcher that only has so many innings left in their arm. Everyone knows that great pitching wins championships. The Mets need to stay focused on developing young arms while growing profits at home and shedding their crappy contracts. This will afford them the opportunity to buy position players when the time comes. So, in 2015, expect the Mets to make some big purchases to add to a team that has the best pitching staff in baseball.


    Justin Upton is a nice player but not worthy to give up for Wheeler or Harvey. He was worth to give up for Murphy, Tejada and Ike Davis before the season. I am very happy that Sandy didnt trade wheeler for him.

  • Unthought_Known

    This article would have made sense a month ago, when Upton was the best hitter in baseball after getting off to a red-hot start. He’s been average-at-best over the last month though, as you can see by his decent-not-great overall numbers. I think he’s been batting about .220 with 2 HR over the last month. I’d love to have him, but not at the expense of Wheeler+.

  • FlDino

    The years the Mets have won, it was primarily because of their pitching. The Mets seem to have finally straightened up their farm prospects and people want to get rid of them. I say NO. Let them come up, build and solidify the rotation and at least one dependable reliever, then you can think about trading one of them.

  • lindro88

    Justin Upton is a strike out machine. He is still sitting on his 14 home runs and 30 rbi. I’m glad they didn’t trade for him. Arizona is barely getting anything out of Prado, but are 10 games over .500 in first place.. addition by subtraction.

  • gmenagain

    No way would I have done it over the winter, and absolutely NOT NOW!
    Anytime we have won a World Series, we had very strong starting pitching. We have Harvey(ACE). Wheeler, Niese…………….(Montero & Syndergaard to round it out?).
    The makings of a BIG TIME starting staff. You can TRADE FOR, or PAY FOR bats. To try and get a staff like that…………..would clean out a farm system. Wanna trade some other minor league pitchers?? Go ahead.
    I’m looking forward to June 18th, 2013. Mets vs Braves doubleheader——-Wheeler AND Harvey pitching?????? Could be a nice glimpse into the future…………

  • Henry Johnson

    I think Harvey’s made a lot of fans think 9and still think) oh, Wheeler’s supposed to be better than Harvey, so we can expect such dominance. While hindsight is 20/20, Wheeler-Tejada for Upton was a deal that had to be made. Pitching is our strength, major league position players is not. Upton is young and good enough to have helped the Mets now and in the future. Wheeler is an unproven lottery ticket that I hope does very well. Upton’s a much more proven and needed entity for the franchise.

    • paqza

      Except nowhere does it say that that was the deal. From what I heard, and based on the package that Arizona accepted from Seattle, it would have been more like Wheeler, Tejada, at least one of d’Arnaud or Harvey, and another prospect. Obviously Wheeler+Tejada would have been a no-brainer but that wasn’t an option.

      • Josh Chapdelaine

        At the height of the rumors (About one month prior to the actual Upton deal) d’Arnaud wasn’t part of the organization. Ultimately, the article was trying to convey that trading a 25-year-old outfielder with six years of major league experience and 100 career home runs for a pitcher who has yet to debut is typically the logical move. The deal was never Wheeler and Harvey, and if you’re looking at Arizona trade just keep in mind that the Mets wouldn’t have needed Chris Johnson.

      • Josh Chapdelaine

        At the height of the rumors (About one month prior to the actual Upton) deal d’Arnaud wasn’t part of the organization. Ultimately, the article was trying to convey that trading a 25-year-old outfielder with six years of major league experience and 100 career home runs for a pitcher who has yet to debut is typically the logical move. The deal was never Wheeler and Harvey, and if you’re looking at Arizona trade just keep in mind that the Mets wouldn’t have needed Chris Johnson.

  • William Kelley

    Sandy’s plan is working. Drafts for past 3 years are good but all class A and below now. Problem has been bad long term contracts and money problems with ownership (no matter how they deny it). Now have to determine whether any of the AA and AAA players have a major league future. Then fill in position gaps with 3 year or less contracts of free agents like Red Sox did. Need to hold on for the class A and below players are ready to contribute.

  • Super T

    Which is why now if the compensation can be worked out – we should trade for 24 y/o Gio Stanton. He would be the team’s cleanup hitter for the next 10 seasons. Offer the Fish a package centered around d’Arnaud/Snydergaard or d’Arnaud/Montero. A team core of Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, Wright, and Stanton is nice.

  • Nicholas A. Vargas

    Regrets are pointless, just adds on more discouragement. Just stop trying to create drama

  • MetsEventually

    He is so incredibly overrated. I’m very glad Wheeler was not moved for this guy.

  • Sean Mc D

    no way would I have given up wheeler for upton….not even close….nothing that the braves gave up (not even the entire combined package) had as much potential as wheeler…and upton, despite a great month of april, is no where near the player that scouts thought he’d be when he came up….this article treats it like a foregone conclusion that they should have made a deal that quite frankly never should have been done…and it really never maakes a compelling argument, just says “well anyone can see they should have done it…afterall, they are deep at pitcher…you know….despite the fact that TINSTAAPP & not one other player in the system beyond MAYBE synd projects to be as good as wheeler

  • NO WAY! You buy outfield bats and develop/trade for young pitching. Excellent pitching is WAY overpriced on the market. Decent hitting outfielders are just a little pricey.

  • BringBackDaveTelgheder

    No way would I have made that trade. The Braves didn’t have to give up anything close to Wheeler, they just gave up a pu-pu platter of mediocrity. The Dbacks didn’t like our package, so be it.

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  • Nicholas A. Vargas

    It looks like there has been a surplus of talent in the outfield within the sport as well. Great consistant pitching his harder to come by.

  • Harry F

    Fact is that our pitching depth isn’t as great as you make it out to be in this post. Wheeler is a legit top 3 rotation guy, with the tools as well as performance to back it up. We’ve had great pitching #s in savannah every year, I remember wondering if Cohoon and Moore would be solid pitchers eventually based on their Savannah #s. And Montero, who knows, he throws a ton of strikes, which may get hit harder as he progresses, and his K #s aren’t outstanding. And with Upton, he’s now been slumping for a longer period of time than he was hot, so there’s not guarantee that he would be a solid outfielder for a long time. He’s been so inconsistent that risking such a high rated pitcher wouldn’t make sense. And the price to get a comparable pitcher on the FA market is astronomical, compared to a good but not great outfielder. Upton was and still isnt a Beltran type.

    San Fran has been successful on the back of having a lot of high quality pitchers, and making it work on offense, look what they did with Aubrey Huff as their hitting star during the playoffs a few years ago. Obviously we need Darnough and Wright to be great in the lineup, and find some good vets,

  • Darrell Smith

    No and I am glad he did not.Now if the Dodgers want to part with Kemp,then by all means,I would be willing to part with Wheeler. He’ a 5 tool player,Yes he has been injured most of this season,but he’s just entering his prime.
    I would be willing to roll the dice.

    • paqza

      If the Dodgers also pick up half his contract…

      • Darrell Smith

        It would be nice if they did,but don’t expect it.However if there are payments after his playing days are over ?,for those the Dodgers pay all.

        • paqza

          Before making that trade, we’d have to see Kemp healthy. Many think that his recent shoulder injury may have permanently reduced his abilities as a player and he has been Ruben Tejada-esque at the plate over 51 games this year. With him still due something like $140 million, that’s a trade we just shouldn’t make unless he can play at an All-Star level.

  • cousinrk

    Having top prospects in the minors is great but until a few of them establish themselves somewhat in the majors you can’t trade them. If Wheeler and MOntero come up and pitch well and show they belong then you can start trading some of the other guys. But right now just Harvey has shown his worth and if you trade Wheeler and Montero or Syndergaard aren’t as advertised, then you are screwed.

  • Noah Baron

    This looks even stupider now.

    • Josh Chapdelaine

      I’d wait more than a season to determine.

  • Loan_Ranger

    FUQ NO!

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