After emerging as one of the National League's better power pitchers over the last two seasons (23-15, 3.65 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 8.9 K/9), Zack Wheeler is now a free agent. He is tied to Draft-pick compensation if he signs with a new team after being one of 10 players to
After emerging as one of the National League's better power pitchers over the last two seasons (23-15, 3.65 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 8.9 K/9), Zack Wheeler is now a free agent. He is tied to Draft-pick compensation if he signs with a new team after being one of 10 players to receive the $17.8 million qualifying offer.
Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the 29-year-old right-hander.
Feinsand: Wheeler has a $100M deal with Phillies
Dec. 4: The market for Wheeler heated up very quickly in recent days, and with good reason -- the hard-throwing righty has made a decision. Wheeler has a deal with the Phillies for $118 million over five years, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
That means Wheeler, who has pitched his entire big league career to date with the Mets, is staying in the NL East.
The Phillies entered the offseason with a major need in their starting rotation, so landing Wheeler -- who was regarded as arguably the top free-agent starter outside of Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg -- helps address that. He and Aaron Nola have the potential to form a very strong top of the rotation that still has some questions, depending on the performance of Zach Eflin, the role of Vince Velasquez and the health of Jake Arrieta.
In other words, it's possible the Phillies still could be seeking another arm to fit in along with Nola and now Wheeler, who shares some similarities to Cole as a late-blooming right-hander with power stuff, as MLB.com's Andrew Simon wrote.
Report: 3 teams leading race for Wheeler, with Phillies in first
Dec. 4: The Wheeler market is moving fast. According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Phillies are currently viewed as the top bidders for the right-hander. Olney notes that the situation is heading "toward resolution."
MLB Network insider Rosenthal gets the sense that the Phillies, Reds and White Sox are the three teams "heaviest" on Wheeler, who is expected to receive a deal exceeding $100 million. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman is hearing the Astros remain involved as well.
Meanwhile, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Rangers have been informed they are out of the running. The Twins have made Wheeler an offer and are willing to go to five years, per Darren Wolfson of SKOR North radio, but it's unclear where Minnesota stands in the race.
Wheeler could sign before Winter Meetings
Dec. 3: Wheeler has been one of the buzzier names among free agents so far this offseason, and it's easy to see why given his age, high-octane stuff and recent run of durability (377 2/3 innings over 60 starts since the beginning of 2018).
In fact, the 29-year-old righty already has received one offer of $100 million and "will land a five-year deal in excess of that amount," writes MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal for The Athletic (subscription required), citing Major League sources.
The Reds, who added Mike Moustakas on a four-year deal Monday, are in "close pursuit" of Wheeler, a source told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports that Wheeler is the "top pitching target" for the White Sox. The Twins, Rangers and Blue Jays are chasing Wheeler as well, per Rosenthal, and the Yankees, Phillies, Padres and Astros also have been linked to the pitcher. In other words, Wheeler's market is sizable -- and could start moving soon.
How soon? Sheldon has heard that Wheeler and his agent are telling other clubs they would prefer to get a contract done ahead of next week’s Winter Meetings in San Diego. Heyman is hearing something similar.
Could Wheeler’s contract reach nine figures?
Nov. 27: Wheeler might not carry the credentials of Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, but his free-agent contract could still take up a significant portion of the budget for his next team. The Athletic’s Dan Hayes reports that one of the Twins’ rival executives told him that Wheeler’s current asking price has surpassed $100 million.
Teams are high on Wheeler’s elite velocity and potential; his recent performance for the Mets (3.65 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 8.9 K/9 over the last two seasons) would already be very valuable for a club’s starting rotation. The sizeable contracts given to lower-tier free-agent pitchers Drew Pomeranz (four years, $34 million) and Kyle Gibson (three years, $30 million) this week could also drive up Wheeler’s asking price.
Phillies could be aggressive in rotation search
Nov. 26: Last offseason, the Phillies were in on the top two free agents, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and they ultimately signed Harper to a 13-year, $330 million contract in early March.
MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi doesn't expect the team to look to the very top of the market this year when it comes to addressing its rotation, but he thinks Philadelphia is "looming large" in the races to sign Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner and Cole Hamels. In fact, Morosi predicts the Phils will add one of the three by New Year's Day.
Philadelphia's starting staff has skewed right-handed in recent years, so acquiring a southpaw such as Bumgarner or Hamels would make sense. Since 2017, the team's starters have allowed the fifth-highest wOBA (.340) in MLB against left-handed batters. Wheeler, though, arguably has the most upside of the three.
The Phillies would need to surrender a Draft pick to sign either Wheeler or Bumgarner, who both rejected qualifying offers. Hamels does not carry that requirement, and he is reportedly open to a one-year deal. He also has familiarity with Philadelphia, having pitched for the team in his first 10 seasons.