Zack Wheeler and Wil Myers are finally ready to make their Major League debuts. Coincidentally, it’s the same week both the New York Mets and the Tampa Bay Rays can be absolutely sure they can keep the young prospects in the majors for the rest of the season without a chance of either player achieving Super Two status.
This is not, of course, the reason that’s been given by either team in the media. The Rays have been relatively quiet, sometimes asserting their confidence in Luke Scott or some other part of the offense and saying there’s no room for Myers on the roster for the time being. The Mets, as is their wont, have been a bit more dramatic about it, loudly insisting to all that would listen that Zack Wheeler wasn’t quite seasoned enough for the big leagues, and just needed a couple more starts at the Mets AAA affiliate in Las Vegas — a PCL team, and as much of a launching pad as that implies — before he was ready for the big time. Perhaps the most amusing bit of kabuki theater surrounding Wheeler’s season so far was that clavicle injury he suffered about a month ago, the one which forced the concerned Mets to rush him all the way across the country to New York to have a doctor take a look at it and conclude there was absolutely nothing wrong. The injury did, however, give the Mets an excuse to scratch Wheeler from a start, ticking down the days until they could call him up while saving a couple innings of wear on his arm.
There’s a good reason teams play games like this. They’re not allowed, after all, to just come out and say they’re whittling away a guy’s service time for arbitration related reasons — that would get them a nice grievance filed with the league. You’ll recall the 2011 season when the reverse happened: The then-Florida Marlins sent Logan Morrison to AAA as punishment for skipping a meet-and-greet with season ticket holders. Morrison was told the demotion was done for “baseball reasons” — the only sorts of reasons you’re allowed to give for demoting a player — but Marlins president Larry Beinfest got in front of a journalist the next day and allowed himself to go on the record as saying Morrison was demoted so he could “learn how to be a major leaguer.” Morrison being second on the team in OPS at the time, there was no merit to the baseball reasons claim anyhow. The grievance was filed after Morrison was recalled from his punishment stint in AAA, and Morrison remained on the team the rest of the year.
The Mets and Rays aren’t being quite as unprofessional as the Marlins were when disciplining Morrison; in fact, they’re not being unprofessional at all. Everyone here — Myers, Wheeler and their agents included — know why they’re being held down. Everyone’s just pretending it’s for baseball reasons to keep good relations and open channels of communication. Most guys — Minnesota’s Aaron Hicks, to use an example from this season — don’t get held down for Super Two reasons. Most guys aren’t worth worrying about in that regard. You have to be a really special player in a team’s estimation for them to care whether you go Super Two or not, like a Buster Posey-type franchise piece. Holding a guy down for service time reasons says as much about their confidence in a player being someone they want on their team moving forward as it does about their desire to save money.
So it’s been a long, sometimes deceitful half-year so far for Myers and Wheeler in AAA, but worry not –once they’re up, they’re up to stay.