How will Zack Wheeler’s extension affect Angels with top free agent pitchers?

Does Zack Wheeler's deal help or hurt the LA Angels pursuit of Blake Snell?

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) reacts
San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) reacts / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels seem like the most logical destination for free agent pitcher Blake Snell. MLB Insider Bob Nightengale of USA Today said that top baseball executives widely believe that Snell will ultimately sign with the Angels. Nightengale also cited the San Francisco Giants as a possibility as well, but Farhan Zaidi seemed to throw cold water on that idea after signing Matt Chapman.

The Giants' top executive said, "The offseason is really over as far as I'm concerned." So, that's it then, right? Angels fans can start buying their Blake Snell jerseys ahead of the 2024 season -- though everyone should probably wait until Nike and Fanatics get their act together.

But the Philadelphia Phillies just threw a monkey wrench into what could be potential negotiations between the Angels and Snell after agreeing to a massive three-year, $126 million contract extension with Zack Wheeler.

How will Zack Wheeler’s extension affect LA Angels with top free agent pitchers?

Wheeler's deal is now the most lucrative contract extension in terms of average annual value (AAV) in Major League Baseball history at $42 million per season. Wheeler finished sixth the NL Cy Young voting last season to the eventual winner, Blake Snell.

Wheeler had fewer strikeouts, a higher ERA, and only pitched in 12 more innings than Snell while also posting a lower bWAR (4.3) than the eventual Cy Young Award winner. Wheeler is also two years older than Snell.

Despite the fact that Snell led the league in walks last season, if you think that Scott Boras isn't going to attempt to secure his client a similar deal, you're fooling yourself. After both Chapman and Cody Bellinger signed short-term contracts with high AAV, it was assumed that Snell and fellow free agent left-hander Jordan Montgomery would follow suit. But Wheeler's deal may have derailed that line of thinking.

Angels owner Arte Moreno has already spoken about reducing the payroll from last year. Currently, according to FanGraphs, the Halos' Opening Day payroll is estimated at $173 million, which is $42 million below last year's number. If that $42 million per season is anywhere close to what Snell is looking for, you can count the Angels out.

As it stands right now, the Angels are likely to head into the 2024 season with Reid Detmers, Griffin Canning, Tyler Anderson, Patrick Sandoval, and perhaps Zach Plesac in the rotation. LA could certainly use an arm like Snell's in the rotation, and while Wheeler's new contract doesn't eliminate that possibility, it's likely to continue to drag out these negotiations even further.

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