Phillies Teammate Projects $45 Million Deal for Gold Glove Ace

Zack Wheeler

Getty Philadelphia Phillies ace Zack Wheeler could hit free agency without an extension from the team.

The Philadelphia Phillies have had a strong weapon in back-to-back runs deep into the playoffs: In 10 starts in 2022 and 2023, starter Zack Wheeler has pitched for a 2.42 ERA and 68 strikeouts, earning praise as a “postseason legend.”

But the ace is projected to enter unrestricted free agency after the 2024 season, and while both sides seem “keen” on agreeing to an extension in Philadelphia, the cost of bringing Wheeler back is an open question. Reporting for the NY Post, Jon Heyman recently shared that one of Wheeler’s teammates believes the cost should rank among the highest for MLB pitchers.

“When I asked one Phillie what ace Zack Wheeler should get as a salary in his new negotiations, that Phillie pointed to Wheeler’s uniform number — yes, $45 million,” Heyman wrote. “He was speculating Wheeler could possibly join Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer as the majors’ $40M pitchers, but of course they were free agents with multiple Cy Youngs.”

Zack Wheeler As a $45 Million Pitcher

Scherzer signed a three-year, $130 million deal with the New York Mets in 2021 after winning the Cy Young Award in 2013, 2016 and 2017. And Verlander signed a two-year, $86.6 million deal with the Mets in 2022, with the 2011, 2019 and 2022 Cy Young Awards under his belt.

Wheeler doesn’t have the same collection of hardware as Scherzer or Verlander, but he does have All-Star and All-MLB second team nods from 2021, when he led the National League in strikeouts. And he earned a Gold Glove Award last season.

Sportract projects Wheeler at a two-year, $44 million market value and Heyman noted that an extension “should exceed $30M,” but it seems unlikely that he’ll net an annual salary matching his uniform number. However, the two sides seem close on a deal that would bring Wheeler back to Philadelphia for 2025 and beyond.

“Wheeler would presumably love to return — he originally signed in Philly for $118M over five when the White Sox bid $125M — and the Phillies badly want to win,” Heyman reported. “When Wheeler left the Mets with a lifetime 100 ERAplus, no one could have imagined he’d even be talked about in the Verlander-Scherzer stratosphere.”

Projecting the Philadelphia Phillies Pitching

In addition to Wheeler, the Phillies’ 2024 rotation will be led by Aaron Nola, who signed a seven-year, $172 extension with the team this offseason.

It also projects to include Ranger Suárez (4.18 ERA in 2023), Taijuan Walker (4.38 ERA in 2023) and Christopher Sánchez (3.44 ERA in 2023). Waiting in the wings are Andrew Painter, the number-27 prospect in all of MLB who is sitting out 2024 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and prospect Mick Abel, who has a chance to see some big-league innings this season.

Even with Wheeler and Nola set for this season, the team may be considering the addition of another front-line starter, particularly one who could be had on a multi-year deal.

Reigning World Series champion Jordan Montgomery has been seen as a potential signing.

“Not many teams have four playoff-caliber starters in the rotation and a team like the Phillies should be opportunistic,” Destiny Lugardo reported for Phillies Nation. “It doesn’t cost anything to make an offer and that’s at the very least what the Phillies should do with Montgomery.”

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