The Philadelphia Phillies have had a relatively quiet offseason so far. There have been some years in which they have arguably made the biggest offseason signing, such as before the 2019 season with the addition of free agent Bryce Harper.
It would be a lot to ask for Philadelphia to dominate the headlines every offseason with the championship-contending club they have. Over the last several years, the Phillies have assembled the current core constructed to win a championship and don't have as much of a need or the financial flexibility to make huge additions.
Phillies ace Zack Wheeler is entering the final year of his contract in 2024. The 33-year-old has established himself as a consistent number-one starter during his previous four years with Philadelphia. He won the first Gold Glove Award of his career following the 2023 season.
The re-signing of Aaron Nola back in November represents the Phillies' biggest move of the offseason to date. The 30-year-old pitcher commented that he hopes the organization and Wheeler can agree on an extension that would keep Philadelphia's top starter with the club beyond next year, per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.
“I hope we can,” Nola told reporters this week, per Zolecki. “I really hope we can. I’ve enjoyed my time with him a lot. I mean, he’s one of the best pitchers in the league. He’s one of the most humble as well. How he goes about his business, it’s very cool to see being right next to him."
Extending Wheeler has been on the Phillies radar for some time
Re-signing Wheeler has been a move the Phillies should have been considering for a while now, particularly following his solid year that resulted in a Gold Glove. The starter threw over 200 strikeouts for only the second time in his career. While his 3.61 ERA was his highest since 2019, he was durable, starting 32 regular season games.
He had 13 wins last year, continuing his streak of winning a minimum of 10 games since 2018, except in the shortened 2020 season. He excelled in five appearances and four starts last postseason as he went 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA. The starter had 35 strikeouts and three walks in 27.2 innings pitched.
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski commented at the end of last season regarding the possibility of a Wheeler extension.
"We would hope to have Zack Wheeler in our organization for years to come," Dombrowski said. "He's been tremendous since he's been here, and we look at him as a real stalwart of our organization. So we would hope that he would be here for a long time."
Recent reports indicate a deal could get done during spring training, at which time the Phillies could offer an extension to Wheeler for a maximum of four years, which would expire around the same time as Nola's. There is some anticipated downside to the extensions, particularly during the final years when both pitchers will be in their late 30s.
Phillies' future rotation will rely on age and youth
Hopefully, Philadelphia will have younger pitchers in its rotation and prospect arms ready to be promoted to the majors by that time. It wouldn't be a good sign if the franchise was still depending upon both Wheeler and Nola, as they could start showing signs of decline due to their ages in the final years of their respective contracts.
No. 1 prospect Andrew Painter will be a top-two starter for them down the line. Due to the severity of his injury, we won't get to see him pitch again in the minors until 2025. His estimated time of arrival to the majors is also in 2025. He could end up being a mainstay in the Phillies rotation by 2026. It's unknown what the future holds for Mick Abel and Griff McGarry, as both have demonstrated inconsistencies during their careers in the minor leagues.
Philly will have a huge gap in its rotation if Wheeler signs with another club as a free agent next offseason. Nola has demonstrated bouts of inconsistency during his career that prevent him from being considered a dominant No. 1 starter; he's considered a fringe No. 1 and a solid second starter in a rotation.
Unless Dombrowski has a solid alternative to finding a replacement for the Smyrna, Georgia native, the Phillies should get an extension done with Wheeler. He has exhibited his value during his time with the franchise, and it would be a big loss in the short term for the club's championship aspirations.