Posted on November 24, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
While Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg highlight this year’s free-agent market with regard to starting pitchers. However, not to be overlooked is longtime New York Mets starter Zack Wheeler. It took Wheeler some time, but he’s performed at a high level over the last year and a half. He also figures to come at a cheaper price than Cole and Strasburg, which could lead to more teams pursuing him than the other two. There’s still not much clarity on his market, but let’s take an early look at the teams hoping to sign Wheeler this winter.
Angels – 15%
The Angels are reportedly one of the teams that have been proactive in talking to Wheeler. His injury history might worry the Halos, who have been snake bitten by the injury bug in recent years. At the same time, the Angels are desperate for a frontline starter and could make a strong push for Wheeler if they don’t get Cole or Strasburg.
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Mets – 10%
The Mets would surely welcome Wheeler back and there’s no doubt he’s open to staying in New York. But the Mets aren’t necessarily favored to re-sign Wheeler. The club isn’t exactly desperate to add rotation help and might be better served by spending money to improve their bullpen this winter. With so many teams likely to make a play for Wheeler, his price tag could go above what the Mets are willing to spend to retain him.
Padres – 15%
San Diego hasn’t been mentioned with Cole or Strasburg, but they’re reportedly in on Wheeler, who will be a more affordable option. There’s no doubt that the Padres could use an established starter to complement their young rotation, making Wheeler a good fit for them. Plus, the Padres have proven the last two offseasons that they’re willing to spend money, so the cost for Wheeler should be within their budget.
Twins – 15%
Minnesota retains Jake Odorizzi, who signed a qualifying offer, but other than him and Jose Berrios, their rotation has several vacancies. To be fair, the Twins aren’t usually big spenders and Wheeler figures to get a deal that could surpass $80 million over four or five years. Nevertheless, the Twins are one of the teams most connected with Wheeler at this point.
Yankees – 10%
The Yankees figure to at least kick the tires on every starting pitcher available this winter. GM Brian Cashman has mentioned that the team will look into Cole and Strasburg and there has also been chatter linking the Bronx Bombers to Wheeler. One way or another, the Yankees will find a way to upgrade their rotation this offseason, and if they can’t get Cole or Strasburg, Wheeler will quickly become their top target.
White Sox – 15%
Chicago has not been shy about making moves early in the offseason, already signing Yasmani Grandal and giving Jose Abreu an extension. The White Sox are another club that probably can’t afford Cole or Strasburg but might have the funds for Wheeler. They have a rotation filled with young, promising talent and could use a veteran leading the way. That’s why it’s not surprising to see the White Sox connected with Wheeler early in the offseason.
The Field – 20%
It’s way too soon to count out most teams from making a play for Wheeler. Teams that want either Cole or Strasburg could move onto him once those players sign. There are also smaller market clubs that could splurge and go after him. Teams like the Astros, Braves, Dodgers, Nationals, and Phillies could all pivot for Wheeler at some point. There’s also been chatter linking him with the Reds, Cubs, Brewers, and Blue Jays. In other words, it could be a while until there’s any kind of clarity on where Wheeler will end up.