The list of teams with interest in Zack Wheeler is long, but the Minnesota Twins should be ready to do whatever it takes to land him.
This side of Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler might be the best free agent pitcher on the market this offseason. The list of suitors for Wheeler is long, and Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported the Minnesota Twins have him high on their list of pitching targets.
Since he declined a qualifying offer from the New York Mets, Wheeler is tied to draft pick compensation. But he set a career-high for innings (195.1) and strikeouts (195) in 2019, and he has accounted for 7.4 bWAR over the last two seasons.
As good as Wheeler has been, with four above-average pitches in his arsenal, Ben Clemens of FanGraphs pointed out that there are ways he could be even better. Essentially, there’s a strong case for elevating his fastball and mixing in more breaking pitches when faced with two-strike counts as ways for Wheeler to unlock a new level. The Twins may already recognize the same thing, and they’ve possibly seen a potential ace in Wheeler (as they and the other suitors should).
The Twins have a young potential ace in place in Jose Berrios, and Jake Odorizzi will be back after taking the same $17.8 million qualifying offer Wheeler rejected. But adding top-end starter is a virtual prerequisite this offseason for the defending American League Central champions.
Minnesota has plenty of payroll room both this year and down the road. If it takes a five-year, $100 million deal to get Wheeler, as projected by MLB Trade Rumors, the Twins can make that offer without hesitation and even up the ante a little if they have to.
With the markets for Cole and Strasburg necessarily narrow, there was naturally going to be plenty of competition to get Wheeler and that has come to fruition. The Twins may have to stretch a little bit, but there’s no way they should be outbid if it means tacking on a little more money or an option year in a deal to get the former Met.