Okay so it looks as if the Zack Wheeler sweepstake is about to wrap up. The moment Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, Jeff Passan and even Bob Nightengale* start tweeting about potential suitors/timelines for potential free agent acquisitions, you can bet your bottom dollar a deal is more or less imminent.
And that’s what we have with Zack Wheeler right now, all the big boys tweeting about his potential destination. For now, it looks as if it’s a 3 horse race between the Sox, the Phillies and the Reds. The Twins were said to have been in on him as recent as late November, but it looks as if they’ve been priced out, which is excellent news. That makes sense because it looks like his market has REALLY boomed in the last few days:
But the White Sox, with their heaps of payroll space, are still in an excellent spot to land him. But my question is this – at what point does his bidding become so outrageous that the White Sox are like “yeah…. thanks but no thanks”? Because if I’m reading into this correctly, we’re getting close to that point.
Which teams have reportedly blown past already, including the White Sox, who have made him pitching priority number 1:
I asked Sox Twitter this morning what its comfort level with a Zack Wheeler contract would look like:
This was kind of a trick question from me. I’ve spewed non-stop about how much payroll flexibility the White Sox have right now. If the Sox ink him for $30MM AAV? Cool. Don’t give a shit. That ain’t happening, but there should be no hypothetical limit on how much the Sox can pay him in terms of AAV. For Wheeler, I care about term length and that is it. If the Phillies go to 6 or more years on him at a $22MM+ AAV… good luck. That’s got the makings of a BAD contract down the line.
In short, the answer to my question is this:
And again in, Wheeler’s case – it has to be vehemently stated that teams are busting open the piggy bank for him because of what they believe he CAN provide, not what he HAS provided. He’s a high risk/high reward signing. He possesses a top of the rotation arsenal, but is also a health risk and has been inconsistent from what Mets fans who follow his every start have told me. He’ll look like an ace for a 3-4 start stretch and a 5th starter for a 3-4 start stretch. Teams are banking that they can hone his pure “shit” and extract more consistency out of him. If they can, $110MM+ is a bargain, especially with what Cole and Stras will sign for. If they can’t? Then it’s not.
I have been told that the Sox are now acting with extreme aggression on the free agent front, which is different from previous winters. We saw it with Grandal and we’ll see it with Wheeler. If the Sox do not end up landing Wheeler, it will be because another team made an extreme overpay that should make most fans scratch their heads. Something like the Yu Darvish contract. Fuck that noise.
But… I don’t think that’s going to happen, at least not with Philly. They still have to extend Nola and Realmuto if possible, and already have Harper on the books for eternity. They’re going to be really pushing up against that lux tax in the coming year or two and as we all know, teams just don’t exceed that for years on end. A huge contract for Zack Wheeler might not make complete sense for them.
We’ll find out how much faith the White Sox have in Wheeler’s future soon enough. As we sit right now, I’m thinking he’s going to get a 5 year, $115-120MM deal, but if someone budges on that 6th year and the Sox are uncomfortable with that, then we should NOT be pissed as fans, though I know that’s asking for a lot.
Hold on to your butts. This shit could wrap up as early as today.