Key Start to Free Agency for the Phillies

by Marc Narducci | Dec 11, 2019
Key Start to Free Agency for the Phillies
The general consensus about the Phillies signing of free agent right-hander Zack Wheeler is that they may have overpaid him, but he is a solid addition to a team in desperate need of starting pitching.
 
Wheeler left the rival New York Mets to sign a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies.
 
At the winter meetings in San Diego, new Phillies manager Joe Girardi says that Wheeler and Aaron Nola will be co-aces.
 
Wheeler earned more on his deal than many of the pundits had expected, which shows how important starting pitching is.
 
As for the Phillies, Nola and Wheeler are really the only sure things in a starting rotation that struggled mightily last season. In fact it’s not out of the question for the Phillies to sign one of the other free agent pitchers.
 
Are there risks with signing Wheeler? Of course. But there are risks with signing any pitcher.
 
Wheeler missed two seasons after having Tommy John surgery.
 
He came back in 2017 and struggled, going 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts.
 
Over the next two seasons, Wheeler rebounded in a strong fashion. He made 60 starts over the last two years. In that time he was 23-15 with a 3.65 ERA in 377 innings. He struck out 374 and walked 105 and had a 107 ERA+, which is seven percent above league average.
 
This past season he was 11-9 with a 3.96 ERA with 195 strikeouts in 195 1/3 innings. His ERA+ was 102.
 
What was most encouraging was that Wheeler’s fastball averaged 96.7 MPH according to fangraphs.com. That was No. 4 in all of the major leagues.
 
So he has shown great durability over the last two years an he will turn 30 in May so Wheeler should be in his prime.
 
The worry with any pitcher is can he stay healthy and that is the case with Wheeler, whether he had Tommy John surgery before or not.
 
The other positive aspect of the Phillies signing Wheeler is that it takes a quality starter away from one of their chief rivals, the Mets.
 
Teams in baseball in general and in the National League East specifically need pitching. Washington just won the World Series with one of the starting staffs in baseball. That is why the Nationals just re-signed right-hander Stephen Strasburg to a reported 7-years. $245 million contact.
 
The Atlanta Braves, led by 22-year-old right-hander Mike Soroka (13-4, 2.68 ERA), are probably still in the hunt for starting pitching. Even with losing Wheeler, the Mets, led by two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, is still solid.

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Teams need starting pitching to survive in the National League East. The Phillies now have a god start with Wheeler joining Nola, but they still have more work to do before pitchers and catchers report to spring training in about another two months.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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