Zack Wheeler hints at retirement plans after signing record-setting extension

The Phillies ace made some interesting comments about his future during his contract extension press conference on Monday.
Philadelphia Phillies starter Zack Wheeler commented on his future during his contract extension press conference on Monday.
Philadelphia Phillies starter Zack Wheeler commented on his future during his contract extension press conference on Monday. / Harry How/GettyImages

When the Philadelphia Phillies announced Zack Wheeler's three-year, $126 million extension on Monday morning, it sent Phillies fandom to cloud nine. The thought of having the staff ace in red pinstripes for another four years and not having to worry about losing him to free agency next winter gave us all a sense of relief.

Despite not adding a big-name free agent this offseason, everything is going to be alright.

As Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said at the extension press conference, the Phillies paying Wheeler the highest annual salary in franchise history and one of the top salaries among elite MLB pitchers was a no-brainer.

"We think Zack is as good as anybody in baseball right now," Dombrowski said. "For us right now, when we look over the last handful of years, we think Zack Wheeler is as fine a pitcher [as there is] the game of baseball ... so it [the salary] really tells you that we think he's one of the best pitchers in the game of baseball."

Wheeler didn't want to go to free agency

Wheeler was ready to sign the deal, which had been agreed upon over a week ago but was delayed due to the birth of his third child, news he shared via a photo on his Instagram account. He was ready to commit to the team and to Philadelphia and shared that he didn't want to get to free agency.

"I'd rather it happen now than go to free agency, and who knows what's going to happen," Wheeler said. "I'm happy in Philly. It's a first-class organization, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, especially pitching in October at Citizens Bank."

It's a refreshing take in a world of professional sports where athletes trying to squeeze every last cent out of free agency is the norm. There's nothing wrong with that, and Wheeler obviously got paid, but it's nice for Phillies fans to hear their guy say that.

Wheeler has already thought about his future

While having Wheeler secured through 2027 is reassuring, we can't help but start thinking ahead. What's after this current window of World Series contention? What's next?

For the Phillies, there's obviously a succession plan in place, with the likes of Andrew Painter and Mick Abel in the minors. For Wheeler, personally, he seems to have already given his future some thought. When asked about the length of the deal and if he had steered negotiations toward this length of an agreement rather than a longer term, he gave a fairly candid answer.

"I do enjoy pitching, and I want to be here," Wheeler said. "I love competing, but you know I don't want to play until I'm old old and I want to be around my family."

It sounds like Wheeler considers 37 to be "old old," as that will be his age when the 2027 season wraps up. While there's always the possibility of the Phillies tacking on another year, if he's still performing, Wheeler doesn't want to push it when the time comes.

"I don't want to be old old and out there maybe not doing my best, what I'm used to doing pitching-wise," he elaborated. "I think it [the deal] works out for me, I think it works out for the team, and I think we're all in agreement on that."

But that doesn't mean he's already looking past the present. Wheeler, who has the highest fWAR among MLB pitchers since joining the Phillies in 2020, is ready to take the ball for his team for the next four seasons.

"I just try to take the ball every time out and just be consistent, and be consistently good," Wheeler said. "I got to give credit to the training staff keeping me out there on the field and working with Caleb [Cotham] our pitching coach. He has helped me out a ton, off-speed wise, and kind of just taken me to that next level."

It sounds like Wheeler is ready to step up yet again for the Phillies when they need him. He has already proven himself in the postseason, with a 2.42 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) and a 0.73 WHIP.

"Just doing it consistently and in-season, postseason, I love those big moments," he added. "I really just enjoy being here in Philly. The fans are the best, and playing in Citizens Bank in October, there's nothing like it."

Let's hope he continues to get it done in the big moments for the Phillies before he finally decides to hang up the cleats.