The Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly “open” to trading Zack Wheeler. If so, the SF Giants need to be at the front of the line for his services.
According to a report by ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Philadelphia Phillies are “open to trade offers” for ace Zack Wheeler. Wheeler, of course, began his career in the SF Giants organization. Now, they should try to make a reunion happen.
Drafted by the Giants with the sixth overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft, Wheeler was one of the team’s top prospects when he was traded to the New York Mets for Carlos Beltrán at the 2011 trade deadline. In 2013, Wheeler debuted with the Mets and almost immediately became a mainstay in their rotation. Arm injuries cost him the 2015 and 2016 seasons, but since returning, he’s reemerged as a very good starter. Last offseason, the Phillies signed Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million deal to solidify their rotation.
Now, it seems, after another disappointing season, Phillies ownership is insisting on cutting their payroll. While justifiably frustrating for fans in the City of Brotherly Love, another team will take advantage. The Giants have been making one of the biggest pushes for free-agent starting pitchers this offseason. Wheeler though could be an even better fit.
Trevor Bauer is the only free agent with a case to be considered a better starter than Wheeler, and his track-record is filled with red flags on and off the field. Plus, Wheeler is less than a year older than Bauer and has just four-years, $96.5 million left on his contract. Bauer is projected to sign a deal worth four-years, $128 million by MLB Trade Rumors. The Giants would have to part with prospects to bring Wheeler in, but Bauer was offered a qualifying offer and would cost the team draft capital in 2021 as well.
Wheeler’s contract will limit the Phillies options. The Baseball Trade Simulator estimates trade value for big-league players and prospects based on their projections and contracts. Per their system, Wheeler would be worth a package of prospects like Will Wilson and PJ Hilson. Both could easily become big-league contributors, but neither are top prospects in the Giants system. Even if Philadelphia held out for a little bit more, San Francisco should not hesitate to pull the trigger.
In 2020, Wheeler made 12 starts, completed 71 innings, and held opponents to a 2.92 ERA. Critics will point to his strikeout rate’s decline last season (career-low 18.4%). However, Wheeler showed no decrease in velocity or change in his pitch movement. Furthermore, opposing hitters posted the lowest average exit velocity against him of his career. There’s little evidence to suggest that he will not be a very good pitcher again in 2021.
The free-agent market remains filled with potential starting pitchers for the SF Giants to target. However, if Zack Wheeler were there, he would be near the top of the team’s wish list. If the Philadelphia Phillies are going to be cheap, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi should take advantage.