The Mets had to be prepared for the slim possibility Zack Wheeler would accept their qualifying offer and return to the rotation next season.
So, theoretically, that’s $17.8 million the Mets had budgeted toward pitching for 2020 that became available when Wheeler last week declined the qualifying offer to pursue free agency.
Now the question becomes how general manager Brodie Van Wagenen might expend that allotment in trying to fill holes in the pitching staff.
Van Wagenen, at the GM meetings, indicated the team would be open to negotiating with Wheeler, but that would also mean a potential bidding war with teams such as the Yankees, Angels, Dodgers and Braves — all of whom would be paying for Wheeler’s upside more than his solid but unspectacular past two seasons with the Mets.
More likely, in another offseason in which the Mets haven’t provided any clues they will be looking to drastically increase payroll, the team has seen the last of Wheeler and will have to decide how to allocate that $17.8 million for next year.
Last offseason, with a full rotation, Van Wagenen spent $40 million on multi-year contracts to Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson that addressed the…