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No More Back-Up Plan: Phillies Sign Zack Wheeler for 5 Years, $118 Million

Wow. That was quick.

What a day for getting the hot stove burning! Earlier, we reported about the news of Cole Hamels signing a deal with the Atlanta Braves and within hours, the rival Philadelphia Phillies made their own move.

As first reported by Marc Carig of The Athletic tweeted that the Philadelphia Phillies had reached an agreement with the RHP Zack Wheeler. Jeff Passan was first to come up with the details of the deal, first with the 5-year length and later with the $118 Million figure now being reported.

This is the Phillies first Free Agent signing of the 2019/2020 offseason, and now takes the role of most guaranteed money from the Braves, who held it earlier today.

Outside of being the first signing of a player from the 2nd tier of starting pitchers (Wheeler, Bumgarner, Ryu), this move has lots of new moving parts that we will discuss in detail:


Tweets Confirming Deal:

The Phillies have reached an agreement with Zack Wheeler, sources tell @TheAthletic. The ex-Met stays in the NL East, and close to New Jersey, where Wheeler’s wife is from. — Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) December 4, 2019
Wheeler gets five years and $118 million. — Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 4, 2019

How This Affects the Mets and Phillies:

With the #Phillies signing Zack Wheeler, the #Mets will receive a compensation pick after Competitive Balance Round B in the 2020 #MLBDraft, and the @Phillies forfeit their 2nd-round @MLBDraft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool. — MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) December 4, 2019

Zack Wheeler is almost guaranteed to be the Phillies #2 man in a decent rotation that features other big names like Aaron Nola (probable #1) with Jake Arrieta around smaller names Vince Velazquez and Zach Eflin. The Phillies will need an improved effort from this 2019 campaign out of Arrieta however if they want to stay competitive on the pitching-side of the game, as outside of Nola (and now Wheeler) the Phillies don’t have great arms.

The Mets rotation, while still one of the top in the MLB, now officially has a hole from last year losing Wheeler. They still have Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Steven Matz however. Chances are, they’ll pick up a veteran 5th arm to fill-out the rotation but this does not seem like a high priority matter for the Mets at this time.

However, in the Phillies signing of Zack Wheeler, as stated above from MLB Pipeline, the Mets will also get a compensation pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. This compensation pick will happen after the 2nd Round of the draft and after the second round of competitive balance. Chances are that this pick probably end up being close to the high 70’s/low 80’s.

Additionally, the Phillies will lose $500,000 in international bonus pool money. That money does not transfer to any other team in baseball, but instead is deducted from their available cap.


Quick Take on the White-Sox:

#WhiteSox’s offer to Wheeler was for MORE than the $118M he will receive from the #Phillies, sources tell The Athletic. As @MarcCarig said, Wheeler’s wife is from New Jersey, and that proximity was an important consideration in his decision. — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 4, 2019

In an offseason where the Chicago White Sox have made two major moves, first with re-signing 1B Jose Abreu to a 3-Year, $50 Million extension (was worked after Abreu aceepted to the qualifying offer) and second with signing C Yasmani Grandal to a 4-Year, $73 Million deal, it seemed like Zack Wheeler was their top pitching candidate to go after.

Unfortunately, even with the moves showing that they believe the AL Central is fair-game and could be contested, they were unable to reel in a third piece to the puzzle and a great solidifier to a young and not-yet-great rotation.

Outside of Lucas Giolito, who had a fantastic 2019 season, the White Sox feature a very young and very unstable rotation. Like Giolito, whose first full year (2018) wasn’t spectacular, they will need their young arms- Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease, Dylan Covey- to do some of the same with improving.

However, it does go to show that the Chicago White Sox are willing to spend big this offseason, and I wonder who they’ll try and go after now that Wheeler (and Hamels) are off the table.


What This Means for the Yankees:

Outside of Gerrit Cole (Target #1) and Stephen Strasburg (Target #1A), the Yankees kept talking about Zack Wheeler as a ‘back-up’ plan- along with Madison Bumgarner- if they didn’t end up getting one of their top starting pitching targets.

With every passing day it seems more and more likely that the (now-second) shoe drops and Strasburg resigns with the Washington Nationals, meaning that the Yankees are going to need to be extremely aggressive in getting Cole. For all we can speculate, maybe his meeting with the Yankees went swimmingly and he signs in the Bronx instead. But, all signs are currently pointing towards the 2019 World Series MVP returning to Washington or going to the San Diego Padres.

Getting a Madison Bumgarner (or Hyun-Jin Ryu, etc.) would be a fine ‘back-up’ plan if they end up not getting him because the Angels (or another team) could always out-bid the Yankees by a large sum (see: CC Sabathia in the 2008/2009 Offseason).

In recent news there are extremes on both sides that both point very positively and negatively towards the Yankees and their signing the marquee free agent starting pitcher…

The Negative:

I don’t typically send stuff like this out there, but got the nod to do so with this one — got a text from reliable person saying that Cole will sign with the #Angels. “Moreno will do whatever it takes.” — Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) December 4, 2019

The Positive: #Yankees felt the meeting with Cole went well. No money discussed, but understood that the NYY would not have flown across country if they weren’t ready to go to the top of the market. — Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 4, 2019 Why logistics might not be as important as perceived with Cole, but bringing your pitching coach with you for a face-to-face with the ace is perhaps more important than it looks #Yankees — Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 4, 2019

The biggest frustration about the Yankees in recent offseasons- outside of the fact that Chase Headley’s 4-Year, $52 Million deal is still the 2nd biggest guaranteed contract the Yankees have given to a free agent since 2015- is that they seem to continue to put on a facade that they “went after XX” but just fell short.

This offseason, that appears much different with Gerrit Cole.

In the end of it, I think Joel Sherman put it best in this article: (2nd linked above):

“Keep in mind, Corbin’s camp asked for a sit-down in New York after the Yankees already had let the group know they weren’t going six years. With Cole, the Yankees contingent flew across the country. Symbolism clear.”


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