Rumor: Angels show interest in Zack Wheeler
The Angels were one of the first teams to show interest in free agent pitcher Zack Wheeler over the winter. MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi was the first to connect the Halos with Wheeler. The logic was pretty simple. If Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the two elite free agent pitchers available on the market, proved unattainable, perhaps Wheeler could be the consolation prize.
The tall, lanky right-hander, who missed the entirety of the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to Tommy John surgery, ultimately signed with the Phillies on a five-year, $118 million deal.
While the Angels are in desperate need of starting pitching, I, for one, am happy this rumor never gained actual traction. Wheeler started 31 games last season in New York, his highest total since 2014. And while he has been effective over the last two seasons, his health just can’t be trusted.
Wheeler pitched to a 3.65 ERA / 3.37 FIP over the last two seasons, striking out 8.0 per nine innings, while walking only 2.5 every nine. Those numbers look good, but for a pitcher who turns 30 this season, they might represent a high point, which makes it difficult to justify a $100 million plus price tag over the next five seasons.
Wheeler rejected the Mets’ $17.8MM qualifying offer, meaning the Angels would have also needed to forfeit draft pick compensation to sign the starter who has yet to reach an All-Star game or prove he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
After striking out on big name free agents, the Angels added Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran on one-year deals. Don’t be surprised if one of them proves to be an effective starter if the season is played. Neither make up for the fact the Angels couldn’t close the deal on Gerrit Cole, but compared to Zack Wheeler? The return on investment might be close.