What's next for the Phillies after missing out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto?

Despite being unable to sign the Japanese phenom, the good news is that the Phillies can use that money elsewhere.
Philadelphia Phillies need to offer Zack Wheeler an extension after missing out on Yamamoto
Philadelphia Phillies need to offer Zack Wheeler an extension after missing out on Yamamoto / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies missed out on signing popular free-agent pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who instead agreed to a 12-year, $325 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers late Thursday. However, the organization could still use the money that they would have offered Yamamoto for other needs on their roster.

Yamamoto was always viewed as a bit of a long shot to sign with the Phillies. Despite being a current contender for a championship and a big market destination, Philadelphia doesn't have a history of signing Japanese players. One of the factors that appealed to the phenom pitcher was playing on a roster with other players of his ethnicity.

Now that the Yamamoto sweepstakes have concluded, clubs will pivot to pursuing other available free agents or acquiring players via trade. The Phillies have other moves that they can address before Opening Day on March 28, 2024, against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

Philadelphia is unlikely to offer a big contract to another free agent this offseason. What could the Phillies use the money they offered Yamamoto toward addressing another need on their roster?

The Phillies should offer Zack Wheeler an extension

Zack Wheeler has established himself as the ace of the Phillies starting rotation since his arrival in 2020. While his ERA (3.61), WHIP (1.08), and batting average against (.227) were higher last season than in 2021 and 2022, the starter was unquestionably Philadelphia's most dependable starter.

Wheeler earned his first Gold Glove Award back in November for his solid campaign in 2023. He was electric for the Phillies last postseason with a 1.95 ERA in four starts and a relief appearance in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. He went 3-0 and had 35 strikeouts and three walks in 27 2/3 innings pitched. Batters averaged a paltry .170 average against the right-hander, and he had a 0.72 WHIP.

Not retaining Wheeler would leave the Phillies without a No. 1 starter. Aaron Nola appears to be a solid option as a second starter but has displayed too many issues with his consistency to merit being considered a reliable ace.

Wheeler appears to be getting better with age, and Philadelphia should consider offering him an extension this offseason before he becomes a free agent. His asking price in free agency will be more than what the Phillies could offer him this winter. He will arguably be the top starting pitcher available if he becomes a free agent in the fall of 2024.

Offering an extension to Wheeler is perhaps the most likely move Philadelphia will make after missing out on Yamamoto. Phillies president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, commented in November that the organization would like to keep the 33-year-old beyond 2024.

If the Gold Glove Award winner would rather determine his worth in free agency next offseason, then so be it, that is his right to choose. The Phillies would prepare to keep him by offering him a new deal after next season, especially if he has a good year in 2024. The organization should do what it can to ensure that doesn't happen and pursue an extension right now.

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