If you believe what you read, it appears the Phillies have their main target for free agency.
According more than a few reports, the Phillies are working on offering free agent hurler Zack Wheeler a monster five-plus year, $100 million-plus contract.
I can confirm @Buster_ESPN report that Phillies are one of the teams in serious pursuit of free agent RHP Zach Wheeler.— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyNBCS) December 4, 2019
Phillies are definitely a player in Zack Wheeler derby now. Reds, White Sox, others also in. All likely in at least at $100M/5. Question is how much over $100M it will go (6th year?). Yankees in touch but more focused on Cole/Strasburg. @Buster_ESPN 1st linked Philly/Wheeler— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 4, 2019
The Phillies look to be one of the final three teams in on Wheeler, according to dallasnews.com.
Right-hander Zack Wheeler has informed the club that it is no longer in consideration, according to a major league source. Wheeler has indicated to teams that he will likely make a decision before the start of the winter meetings, which begin Sunday in San Diego. He is reportedly considering Philadelphia strongly, along with the Chicago White Sox and perhaps Cincinnati. [Dallas News]
It sounds like the bigger market teams like the Yankees and Dodgers are focused on the two superstars Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. According to ESPN, the Phillies and other teams feel that Wheeler, 29, is the best of the second tier of starters available.
Wheeler had a solid season for the Mets in 2019, posting a 3.96 ERA, and other teams are pursuing him ardently for the same reasons they did before the trade deadline. He's young, relative to other free-agent starters; he's been healthy recently, with 60 starts over the past two seasons, and he has plus stuff, with an average fastball velocity of 96.7 mph in 2019, fourth-best in the majors. [ESPN]
The Phillies would no doubt be much improved with the righty Wheeler as the No. 2 man in their rotation, wedged between ace Aaron Nola and veteran Jake Arrieta, who is on the last year of his deal in Philly.
Is Wheeler a good fit?
Well, the team does have a bigger need for a left-handed arm (which led many to think Cole Hamels or Madison Bumgarner were better fits), but Wheeler been relatively consistent when healthy and he's been pretty reliable since missing two entire seasons with the Mets in 2015 and 2016 (Tommy John surgery).
You probably aren't going to get a Cy Young season out of Wheeler, but you probably aren't going to have to send him down to Triple-A for being too unpredictable (cough Nick Pivetta cough). It's worth noting that Wheeler's 2019 with the Mets yielded a WAR as high as any Phillies pitcher (Nola also was at 3.5 last season).
Philadelphia, right now according to Spotrac, has around $47 million in spending flexibility below the luxury tax. If they spend around half of it on Wheeler, they'll likely still be able to add a significant infield piece like, say, Didi Gregorius and have a little room to make a few other marginal adds to the bullpen and bench.
The downside, though, and one that is probably unavoidable, is that even a rotation with Nola, Wheeler and Arrieta at the top would still rely on solid contributions from Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Pivetta or Zach Eflin. And we all know how that went last season.
Still, that the Phillies are willing to make a splash and add a top of the line pitcher isn't nothing.
We'll see if the deal gets done sometime soon, which actually may be a likely outcome in contrast to last season's ridiculous slow burn:
Over the past two winters, the free-agent market has played out slowly, with a lot of teams sitting out the early action. But agents report that early in this offseason, the bidding has generally been much more aggressive, particularly in the starting pitching market. [ESPN]
Oh, wouldn't that be nice.
Follow Evan on Twitter:@evan_macy
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports