The Philadelphia Phillies signed Zack Wheeler to get their offseason party going, but they have to keep spending to reach contender status in 2020.
It was a bit of a gamble, but the Philadelphia Phillies had no choice but to sign right-hander Zack Wheeler to a massive contract.
Five years and $118 million is a lot for a starting pitcher with a jam-packed medical file and only 126 career starts, but Wheeler was the best available sure thing for the Phillies, who could not afford to wait and put all their eggs in the Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg basket. Signing the 29-year-old to join Aaron Nola at the top of their rotation is a good first step, but the Phillies can’t stop now.
After signing Bryce Harper last year, the Phillies believed they were ready to contend in 2019, but they fell flat on their faces, finishing an even .500 and collapsing in the second half after a strong start. Their roster is still flawed after a multi-year rebuilding effort, and ownership has given the front office the green light to spend freely to make a World Series contender materialize.
The Phillies have close to $20 million left to play with before they hit the luxury tax, and several big contracts coming off the books after next season. That means they should not be done with the free-agent market this winter. With no more top prospects left in the farm system and ready to play a major role immediately, free agency is the only path left for the Phillies to complete their roster. Expect at least one more major move out of Philadelphia.
HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 23: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches during Game 2 of the 2019 World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
5. Stephen Strasburg
Remembering how the Phillies came out of nowhere to sign Cliff Lee away from the New York Yankees in 2010? There’s no way to count them out of swooping in to steal right-hander Stephen Strasburg away from the rival Washington Nationals. Finding a way to sign the World Series MVP would be the ultimate coup de grace for the Phillies, a year after stealing away Bryce Harper. Jon Heyman is reporting that Philadelphia is at least considering the idea of making a pitch to Strasburg.
Heyman reported the Phillies interest in Strasburg before they ultimately signed Wheeler, but the interest should still stand. A rotation of Strasburg, Wheeler and Aaron Nola would instantly become one of the best in baseball. It’s a long shot, but the Phillies should make a strong push to sign Strasburg. Signing him would strike a huge blow to the Nationals, give the Phillies the true ace they need and take pressure off Nola and Wheeler to lead the staff.