Zack Wheeler signs with the Phillies
The top two free agents on the pitcher market — Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg — are still on the market, but we have seen the next tier of the market start to move a little bit. On Wednesday, likely the number three starting pitcher available in free agency this winter made his decision. Rumors had been heating up regarding Zack Wheeler for a couple days, and the Phillies were the ones who ended up signing the righty. He will make $118 million over five years.
Personally, I am not sure where all of the Wheeler love has come from lately. I understand the potential and I understand the market is flawed after those aforementioned top two, but Wheeler has yet to be anything but average and/or hurt throughout his career. To be fair, he has been healthy for a couple years now and the peripherals are trending up, but I’d rather see it before making this kind of commitment. The other side of this, of course, is that the Phillies have plenty of money and they are all-in on winning right now. They are the exact team that should be this aggressive on players in whom they believe.
Sox Spin: The Red Sox need a starter, and while they were never going to be a player for Wheeler specifically the more quickly this market starts to move the more quickly we’ll know Boston’s plan at this position.
Cole Hamels signs with the Braves
Wheeler wasn’t the only pitcher to sign a new contract on Wednesday. A former Phillies legend also signed with a new team, and it just happened to be one of his old team’s biggest rivals. The Braves continued to reshape their roster in what has been a relatively aggressive offseason, signing Hamels to a one-year deal worth $18 million. The southpaw certainly is not the player he once was as he gets set to enter his age-36 season, particularly in the control department. That said, he has still been consistently above-average by ERA every year of his career. The Braves don’t need ace-level Cole Hamels, they just need a solid, middle-of-the-rotation arm and that’s what they are getting here. Also, the first game Hamels pitches in Philadelphia wearing the enemy’s uniform is going to be fun.
Sox Spin: See above.
Dylan Bundy traded to the Angels
While two of the bigger free agent starting pitchers on the market made their move, there was also a former top prospect changing coasts. Later on in the day on Thursday, the Orioles pulled the trigger on a deal to send Dylan Bundy out to the Angels in exchange for a quartet of minor leaguers. Bundy, obviously, was once one of the very best young pitchers coming up through the minors, but he never really found his footing in the majors. Some of that was being put on the major-league roster too early, eventually running out of options before he was even really ready for the majors. That forced him to stay on the major-league roster in different roles and he just never got comfortable. He still shows flashes from time-to-time — and he was probably Baltimore’s best pitcher at this point — he’s still only 27, and he was about league-average. The Angels are desperate for pitching and there’s still some chance here. It’s worth the risk for L.A., particularly since none of the prospects they gave up were all that well-regarded, and the Orioles have zero interest in having competent major leaguers at this point.
Sox Spin: The Red Sox shouldn’t have gone after Bundy. If he is going to turn it around, I cannot see it happening in the AL East in those ballparks. That said, this is roughly the tier of pitcher they are likely looking at, and at least in this case it was able to get done with a quantity-over-quality deal. That’s perfect for the Red Sox with their current farm system.
Wilpons moving to give up majority shares of Mets
Look, I’m going to be honest. There’s not much that makes my eyes glaze over quite like the details of a high-level business transaction. It’s just not my thing. Still, the Mets potentially changing hands in ownership is a big deal. That is what is happening, as reports indicate they are getting set to sell 80 percent of their stake in the franchise to billionaire Steve Cohen. In a very Mets-ian twist, this new owner is most famous for his firm’s massive insider trading case that ended with plenty of arrests (though not him for some reason) and $1.8 billion in fines. Also, Damian Lewis’ character in Billions is apparently based on him, which I did not know. (Nor have I seen the show, to be fair.) Also extremely Mets-ian: Even after the sale the Wilpons will still have control over the franchise for five years, which is just hilarious to me.
Sox Spin: There’s nothing really here except this: the valuation on the Mets right now is apparently at least $2.6 billion. That means the Wilpons saw the value of their personal stake appreciate by $140 million per year. Just remember that when owners talk about revenue and payroll and losing money.