According to Phillies beat writer Todd Zolecki, the Phillies are prioritizing extending their ace, Zack Wheeler, now that Aaron Nola has re-signed with the organization.
The Phillies had Aaron Nola and JT Realmuto go into free agency due to insufficient offers, but I don’t see this happening with Zack Wheeler. The fact that this has been discussed at length already is a great sign that it will get done sooner rather than later.
Zack Wheeler as a Phillie
Signed as a free agent following the 2019 season for five years, $118 million, Zack Wheeler wasted no time making that contract look like an underpay.
Since leaving the Mets for the Phillies, Wheeler has a 42-25 record with an ERA of 3.06 and 675 strikeouts in 101 appearances. That is significantly better than his 44-38 record with an ERA of 3.77 and 726 strikeouts in 126 appearances with the Mets. He finished sixth in Cy Young voting this past season but has been as close as finishing a controversial second place in 2021.
The 2023 season was arguably his worst as a Phillie and he was still one of the best pitchers in baseball after the season.
Like almost every pitcher in 2023, Wheeler had a rough time adjusting to the new rules. Heading into 2024, I’d expect him to be comfortable and hit the ground running.
What a Deal Might Look Like
There are two ways the Phillies can go about extending their ace. Wheeler, 33, is sure to not undersell himself this time around, and he shouldn’t. He has multiple top-10 Cy Young finishes and has been the ace since his arrival.
Players are signing into their aged 40 seasons, and with the Phillies being known to offer longer contracts to keep the AAV down, I would not be surprised to see Wheeler sign a six or even a seven-year contract extension. It is a lot of years for a pitcher going into his mid-30s, but the Phillies going that route would certainly help them sign other players. With Aaron Nola signing a contract into his age 37 season for $172 million, we have a vague idea of what a Wheeler extension could look like if they went this route.
The other option is a three-to-four-year deal, taking him into his age 36 or 37 season. This would raise the AAV substantially, but it would keep him in Philadelphia for the biggest part of the World Series window and it avoids having an aging pitcher on a big contract.
The Phillies have three pitchers expected to make their MLB debuts between 2024 and 2025. Top prospect Andrew Painter had hopes of pitching in the majors in 2023 before tearing his UCL in spring training, holding off his debut until the 2025 season.
The Phillies are in a unique position. They have many options for the future. Whether it’s having Griff McGarry, Mick Abel, and Andrew Painter all on the pitching staff or making trades for sure-fire talent, they can go a few different ways.
The Phillies currently have Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, Taijuan Walker, and Cristopher Sánchez as their starting five. While the fifth starter spot should be addressed, a Wheeler extension taking top priority is the correct call. He has been crucial for the Phillies organization and should not be sent into free agency.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)