Zack Wheeler confirms what all Phillies fans have been hoping for this spring

The Phillies ace spoke to the media from training camp on Wednesday and filled everyone in on the contract extension talks.
Philadelphia Phillies starter Zack Wheeler is in talks with the team about a contract extension
Philadelphia Phillies starter Zack Wheeler is in talks with the team about a contract extension / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

Philadelphia Phillies pitchers and catchers officially began spring training on Wednesday in Clearwater, Florida. While it's always a sight for sore eyes to see our favorites back on the field as we get those first shots from media covering the camp, it also brings off-field concerns into focus as the new baseball season feels real for the first time.

Last year, it was Aaron Nola heading into the season in the final year of his contract — a saga that was finally resolved in November after a brief taste of free agency. This season, staff ace Zack Wheeler is heading into a contract year. He's beginning the fifth and final campaign of the five-year, $118 million deal he signed in December 2019.

One of the burning questions this offseason, basically ever since Nola's re-introductory press conference, has been whether the Phillies will want to and will be able to extend Wheeler before Opening Day.

The Phillies love Zack Wheeler

The first part of that question is the easiest to answer. The Phillies love Wheeler and have a desire to keep him away from the open market and get him inked to another deal as soon as possible.

Echoing his thoughts from throughout the offseason anytime he was asked about Wheeler's contract status, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski recently spoke about the situation in a guest spot on SportsRadio 94WIP.

"Well, we would love to sign Zack today, if we could," Dombrowski told the Morning Show. "I think it's important that we re-sign him. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball. ...I know Wheels loves it in Philadelphia, loves being part of the organization. I would say that it's a priority for us."

From Dombroski to manager Rob Thomson, that's been the company line all winter, and for good reason. Wheeler has more than lived up to his end of the deal over his four seasons in Philadelphia.

Even fellow rotation stalwart Nola spoke this winter about how much he wants his rotation buddy back.

Wheeler confirms his camp and the Phillies are talking

The second part of the equation is whether the Phillies would be able to extend the 33-year-old before Opening Day. Understandably, the front office doesn't comment on active contract issues, so we never really got a clear answer on what was happening between the team and Wheeler's camp.

Luckily, players can be a little more forthcoming at times.

And on the first day of training camp, Wheeler himself gave us the answer about what's actually going on behind the scenes. According to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark, Wheeler told the media that his agent and the organization are currently talking about getting an extension done.

That's good news. As is Wheeler's stance on in-season negotiations — apparently, he's not opposed, so there isn't a hard deadline to get something done before March 28.

Don't expect a hometown discount

Now the bad news. For any fans who were hoping the mutual love between Wheeler and the Phillies would aid in the extension talks, it's only going to go so far. As much as the star starter wants to stay in Philly and loves his situation, he's also realistic about the business of baseball.

According to 94WIP's Howard Eskin, Wheeler also told the assembled media that he wants market value.

"It's a business, and you probably should get paid [for] what you have done or what you're expected to do ... You get paid what you should be paid ... market value," Wheeler said. So any hopes of a hometown discount are looking like a pipe dream at this point.

Regardless, just a month ago, MLB insider Ken Rosenthal sounded confident an extension would get done this spring and then reiterated that on Tuesday during an appearance on Foul Territory podcast.

Let's hope that's the case, and the Phillies are willing to pay for the ace they know and love. The clock is now ticking.