It's hard not to start connecting the dots with the recent chatter about the Philadelphia Phillies signing Zack Wheeler to a contract extension. The prospect of locking up Wheeler has become less wishful thinking for Phillies fans and appears to have shifted to more of an imminent reality.
It's no secret that making this happen has been a primary goal of Dave Dombrowski since the end of the postseason.
Speaking to the media at the year-end press conference in October, Dombrowski made it clear that re-signing Wheeler is a primary objective for the organization this offseason.
"Without getting into anything, because just we haven’t had these type of things [conversations], we would hope to have Zack Wheeler in our organization for years to come," said Dombrowski. "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."
Zack Wheeler extension gaining traction
The idea of a Zack Wheeler contract extension has finally picked up steam. After returning from the MLB Winter Meetings without a big prize for the first time in what seems like forever, the Phillies' new sustainable approach to filling roster holes on the 2024 Phillies team may have been influenced by getting a Wheeler extension done all along.
First, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reported at the end of November that the two sides had spoken, but it was unclear if Wheeler desires to test the free agent market. That there have been conversations between the Phillies and Wheeler was obviously a newsworthy development.
Yesterday, another MLB insider added a new perspective that should make Phillies fans very happy.
Appearing on 97.5 The Fanatic, writer Jayson Stark from The Athletic detailed the mutual desire for both team and player to get something done.
What Jayson Stark knows is anyone's guess. But that quote seems pretty confident that the two sides are going to get this done sometime after the Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweepstakes come to an end, and what's left of the free agent market starts to pick up in its wake.
We're all waiting for you Shohei. Any day now?
Locking up the top of the rotation for the future
If the biggest moves the Phillies make this offseason are re-signing Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler, no one should be disappointed with that result.
Wheeler is clearly the ace of the Phillies' pitching staff, with Nola a solid number two or three starter in a contending team's rotation. With the Atlanta Braves built to win now and the Florida Marlins no longer bottom dwellers in the NL East, having certainty at the top of a rotation is a base-level requirement.
There are plenty of questions to ask regarding how the rest of the rotation will perform in spots three through five in 2024. Will Taijuan Walker become a trusted rotation piece again for Rob Thomson? Can Ranger Suárez stay healthy and consistent? What is Cristopher Sánchez's role going to be? Maybe a young guy like Mick Abel or Griff McGarry take the next step to the major leagues?
These questions will be answered eventually, but there is no need to fret about spots one or two next season and won't be for a few more years if they extend Wheeler.
What is abundantly clear is that the Phillies are going to have to pay Wheeler big-time money. While Aaron Nola took a hometown discount of $172 million over seven years to stay in Philadelphia, Wheeler is sure to want more annually and should probably command something north of $30 million per year.
At age 33, something along the lines of a four-year extension would keep him in a Phillies uniform until he's 38. That's a reasonable deal for a pitcher who previously had Tommy John reconstructive surgery and will likely be in the twilight of his career.
At the right price and with a responsible number of years added to his current contract, the Phillies should make every effort to keep Wheeler in red pinstripes this offseason.