'Zack Wheeler Syndrome' pervades market

By being patient, the Mets were able to acquire Zack Wheeler at the 2011 trade deadline. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

You could call it the "Zack Wheeler Syndrome." It’s the tendency of general managers to hold out the possibility that another team might react with desperation, or with emotion, or out of almost untethered ambition.

This is what happened in the summer of 2011, when Carlos Beltran was headed into free agency and the Mets held onto him through early July and waited for someone to meet their asking price of a top-tier prospect. They waited and stuck to that sticker price -- and eventually, the Giants surrendered one of the sport’s best pitching prospects, Zack Wheeler.

MLB front offices now operate with the constant weighing of relative value, and in the current thinking, two months of a possible Hall of Famer like Carlos Beltran isn’t close to what Wheeler could be worth, but the Giants’ front office -- which has enjoyed more success than any other in the past three years -- made the move, swapping Wheeler for Beltran.

So these days, general managers say, the asking prices for even rentals such as Matt Garza and Phil Hughes are astronomical. "Incredibly high," said one executive.