Zack Wheeler Mets Yankees
Zack Wheeler #45 of the New York Mets pitches against the New York Yankees during their game at Yankee Stadium on May 13, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images

Both the New York Yankees and New York Mets have been involved in trade discussions regarding starting pitching in the days leading up to the 2018 MLB trade deadline. A deGrom-to-the-Bronx deal almost certainly won’t happen—no matter what many New York baseball fans might think—but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the two teams shake up their respective rotations over the course of the next week.

For the Mets, that probably doesn’t mean trading deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, who was just placed on the disabled list with hand-foot-and-mouth disease. It’s more likely that the team will part with one of their lesser starting pitchers, namely Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler.

Once highly touted prospects that made an immediate impact in their first few major-league seasons, Matz and Wheeler struggled mightily in 2017 before their seasons were ended by injuries. They’ve bounced back this year, especially in recent weeks, drawing the interest of contending teams.

Matz has a respectable 3.65 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in 101 innings, posting a 3.29 ERA since the end of April. Wheeler’s overall numbers aren’t as impressive (4.44 ERA, 1.34 WHIP), though the 28-year-old has pitched better as of late. He’s got a 3.58 ERA in 70.1 innings over his last 11 starts, striking out 66 batters and walking just 23 during that time.

According to Fancred’s Jon Heyman, Wheeler is the only Mets’ starting pitcher that’s likely to be traded.

Even when it comes to Wheeler, a deal between the Yankees and Mets remains unlikely. Wheeler might not be much of an upgrade over Sonny Gray, who would currently be the Yankees' No.4 starter in a playoff series.

Gray has performed so poorly since coming to the Yankees in a trade a year ago that there’s now speculation that the team could pull the plug on the experiment altogether. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo has reported that some MLB teams are getting the impression that the Yankees are trying to move Gray.

Despite his 5.34 ERA in the 2018 season, Gray could still have some value on the trade market. There’s a belief that he could thrive in a smaller market, much like he did with the Oakland Athletics for the first four years of his career. The 28-year-old has a respectable 3.62 road ERA, but he’s been awful at Yankee Stadium with a 7.62 ERA and a .310 opponents’ batting average.

Because the Yankees are looking to improve their pitching staff for the pennant race, it’s hard to believe they’d simply deal Gray for prospects and that would be it. Trading Gray would probably be the first of a couple of moves that would end with the team getting an established starter.

Whether a game-changing starter is available through a trade remains to be seen. DeGrom and Syndergaard appear to be out of the question, and the Yankees aren’t getting Madison Bumgarner like some fans have hoped. The Houston Astros proved last year what acquiring a front-of-the-rotation starter can mean when they traded for Justin Verlander and went on to win the World Series.

The likes of Wheeler, Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ aren’t exactly moving the needle.