Wednesday, April 17, 2024
    HomeSportZack Wheeler, Phillies agree to 3-year, $126 million contract extension: Sources

    Zack Wheeler, Phillies agree to 3-year, $126 million contract extension: Sources

    When Zack Wheeler first joined the Phillies, he sat in the club level at Citizens Bank Park and declared his intentions. “I want to pitch at the top tier,” he said in December 2019. He had never received a Cy Young Award vote. He was not considered an ace.

    Now, he is in the upper echelon of pitchers in the sport, and he has a contract extension to reflect that. Wheeler and the Phillies agreed Monday morning to a three-year, $126 million deal, major-league sources told The Athletic, that will prevent him from becoming a free agent after the 2024 season.

    Wheeler’s annual salary will be the highest ever for a Phillies player and the fourth-highest average annual value for any player ever.

    The Wheeler extension will begin in 2025. Wheeler has one more season remaining on his original five-year, $118 million deal that is arguably one of the best free-agent contracts for a pitcher in recent history. It was, at the time, a risky deal for a pitcher who had yet to prove he was a consistent force.

    But Wheeler has left no doubt since arriving in Philadelphia.

    His 3.06 ERA with the Phillies ranks ninth among starters with at least 350 innings pitched since 2020. Only three pitchers — Gerrit Cole, Sandy Alcantara and Aaron Nola — have logged more innings than Wheeler in the past four seasons. No pitcher has accumulated more WAR, based on FanGraphs’ version of the metric, than Wheeler during that span.

    In extending Wheeler, the Phillies are betting on a pitcher who hasn’t logged as many miles as the typical top-of-the-rotation starter his age. Wheeler, who will turn 34 in May, missed significant time earlier in his career with the Mets because of injuries. He has accumulated 1,378 2/3 innings in the majors. By comparison, Cole Hamels had 2,362 innings through his age-33 season. Roy Halladay had logged 2,297 innings.

    Wheeler’s $42 million average annual salary during the extension is surpassed only by Shohei Ohtani ($46.1 million), Max Scherzer ($43.3 million) and Justin Verlander ($43.3 million). Combined with the money remaining on the final year of Wheeler’s current deal, the Phillies will pay him $149.5 million over the next four seasons. (That is a $37.4 million annual average, coincidentally a tick above Wheeler’s friend and former teammate Jacob deGrom’s $37 million salary with the Texas Rangers.)

    Wheeler, according to major-league sources, may not want to pitch beyond this new contract. Both sides were amenable to a shorter-term deal. The Phillies have now locked their two best starters, Wheeler and Nola, into the rotation for the foreseeable future. They signed Nola to a seven-year, $172 million contract at the start of the offseason.

    Wheeler has made 101 starts for the Phillies. If healthy in 2024, he’ll pass Halladay and Cliff Lee in games started as a Phillie.

    And, if he continues on his current trajectory, Wheeler will be remembered as one of the club’s greatest acquisitions since the inception of free agency.


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    (Photo: Rich Schultz / Getty Images)



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