Zack Wheeler contract extension grade: Win-win for Wheeler and the Phillies

Zack Wheeler's record contract extension with the Phillies is a win-win for both parties.

Zack Wheeler and the Philadelphia Phillies' contract extension is a win-win agreement
Zack Wheeler and the Philadelphia Phillies' contract extension is a win-win agreement / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

News broke Monday morning that Zack Wheeler and the Philadelphia Phillies had agreed to a massive extension that will pay $126 million over three seasons. The deal will add to the final year of his original five-year, $118 million contract, with $23.5 million due for the 2024 season.

During his time with the Phillies, the 33-year-old has been phenomenal, taking over as the ace of the staff and helping to build the Phillies rotation into one of the best in baseball. Since 2020, Wheeler ranks in the top five in ERA, FIP, wins, WHIP, and innings pitched among pitchers with at least 100 starts.

Wheeler's new deal will bring in the highest average annual value of any Phillies player in history and the third-largest AAV for a primary pitcher in 2024, behind only Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. The extension also includes no options and no opt-outs. He wants to be in Philly.

Wheeler's contract extension mimics that of an open market contract

Often, when extension talks begin, there is an impasse between teams and players because of the opportunity players receive by hitting the free agent market. This is exactly what happened with Aaron Nola. When players offer elite-level services, having multiple teams bidding to drive the price up makes more financial sense.

Just like some of Wheeler's teammates have made evident in recent offseasons, it was obvious he didn't want to go anywhere either.

"I'd rather it happen now than go to free agency, and who knows what's going to happen," Wheeler said at Monday's press conference. "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."

According to Baseball Trade Values, a website that uses a unique algorithm to evaluate players and predict moves such as contract extensions or trade packages, the cost of a three-year contract on the open market when Wheeler would have hit free agency would have been around $117 million. The former Met was expected to be the best starting pitcher available and would've definitely driven interest around the league.

The extra $10 million the Phillies shelled out did a few things. It accounted for another successful season for Wheeler in 2024, which would have ultimately driven his value up even higher. It also gives Wheeler and his team extra peace of mind, knowing he's earning a fair market value. As stated before, being the best in the available player pool would increase the price. The additional cost accounts for a market-adjusted price.

The final piece to the puzzle is the length of the new deal. During his press conference, Wheeler hinted at his future plans, saying he doesn't want to pitch when he is "old old." He doesn't want to outpitch his skills and eventually wants to spend more time with his family.

Wheeler will be 37 at the end of his three-year extension, leading us to believe it will likely be his last season playing professional baseball. If that is the case, the Georgia native would end up earning over $254 million over what will be a 15-year playing career.

Wheeler's contract extension lines up perfectly with the Phillies' future plans

Not often when shelling out $42 million per season does an organization get praised for its decision-making, but the contract structure works perfectly for the Phillies.

With one year remaining on his original deal, Wheeler would've been entering free agency at 34 years old, looking for a team to bite on a high-AAV, short-term contract, much like we've seen the Los Angeles Dodgers offer over the past few offseasons.

The Phillies, right in the prime of their championship window, look to be competitive for at least the next few seasons, with players like Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Alec Bohm, and Bryson Stott all being under team control for parts of the next four years.

Adding in the now-lifetime Phillies, such as Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Aaron Nola, gives the organization even more of an emphasis on winning while these stars are in their prime.

The new four-year partnership between Wheeler and the Phillies gives the team a bona fide ace to pair next to their lifelong ace, who extended just a few months ago. The team that has reached the NLCS in the last two seasons has locked down its core to make a push for a World Series ring.

There is also some promising talent waiting just around the corner. Pitchers like Mick Abel, who impressed in his first spring training start of 2024, Griff McGarry, and Andrew Painter are all waiting in the wings for their chance to make an impact on the major league roster.

Wheeler will be an incredible presence in the locker room and will help develop the young pitchers. His knowledge and experience have already rubbed off on them, with players stating that they will just sit and watch him deal during camp.

Phillies' Zack Wheeler contract extension grade

Dave Dombrowski and Wheeler's team did an incredible job finding a deal that works for all parties involved. Wheeler gets the big payday he deserves while the Phillies retain their ace without going through free agency, seamlessly continuing their championship window for years to come.

At the end of the day, $126 million is a huge chunk of change. $42 million AAV is a ton of money. The signing may prohibit the Phillies' pursuit of other free agents like Jordan Montgomery or Blake Snell this season. It may even deter the pursuit of someone like Juan Soto next offseason. That said, no one ever knows what John Middleton and Dombrowski have up their sleeves.

Overall, the move points towards culture. Players want to play here. Since Bryce Harper inked his mega-deal, players have been taking pay cuts, forgoing free agency, and even openly speaking about their desire to play in a great baseball town like Philadelphia.

The Zack Wheeler contract extension is a win-win and points to a successful baseball culture with an emphasis on winning a World Series.

Final grade for the Phillies' Zack Wheeler contract extension: A