Zack Wheeler is headed to Philadelphia as the 29-year-old agreed to a deal to join the Phillies on Wednesday. The massive contract the Philly gave Wheeler was just another indication the franchise is going all-in to win now.
Wheeler received a five-year, $118 million contract that will pay him an average of $23.6 million per year.
That deal came despite only having three full seasons of major league production under his belt. Wheeler has electric stuff but that has never translated into sustained, big league success. The Phillies are clearly banking on him developing into a consistent front-end piece for their rotation.
In 2019 with the Mets, Wheeler went 11-8 with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. He had 195 strikeouts against 50 walks in 195.1 innings. None of those numbers will overwhelm you. His fWar (4.7) ranked 15th among pitchers in all of baseball, so maybe the Phillies are banking on him building on that. That said, Wheeler has only topped 30 starts twice in his big league career, once in 2014 and once last season.
Regardless of why the Phillies chose to give Wheeler big money, the move clearly shows they want to win now. Last offseason they signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen, and traded for Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. Those were all big moves designed to make the team an instant contender. Philadelphia went 81-81.
Another starting pitcher was a clear need for the Phillies. Aaron Nola is a stud, but Zach Eflin is probably a mid-rotation guy at best and Jake Arrieta posted an ERA of 4.64 and a 1.47 WHIP in 2019. The needed another arm at the top of their rotation and probably don't have the money to chase Gerrit Cole.
Wheeler was likely the team's top option in their price range, but he's also a serious gamble. He already had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and has had arm issues as recently as 2017. If Wheeler can stay healthy and on the mound, this could wind up being a great investment-- but it's an expensive risk to take.