The New York Mets have seen another person of interest depart for a different corner of the National League East.
After passing up on Joe Girardi for their managerial vacancy, the Mets saw their former righty sign with the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday afternoon, as first reported by Marc Carig.
NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reports that Wheeler’s deal is worth just under $120 million over five seasons.
Wheeler going to Philadelphia hit a fever pitch earlier in the day when Buster Olney reported that the Phillies were considered the top bidder for the free agent while the Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins circled.
Wheeler, 29, has strung together two consecutive almost-healthy seasons following a convoluted and difficult road back to the majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015.
He has started 60 games since the start of 2018, going 23-15 with a 3.65 ERA and a 1.194 WHIP.
The righty showed a glimpse of becoming a top-tier starter during the second half of the 2018 season when he was one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League.
In his final 15 starts two seasons ago, he went 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA.
He had a similar big finish in 2019, too, which only helped his value on the free-agent market. He starting the season 7-6 with a 4.91 ERA, Wheeler went 4-2 with a 2.66 ERA in his final 11 starts.
Possessing an arm that should be fresh for a starter entering his age 30 season — he’s pitched 791.2 innings since 2013 — was another reason why his price tag was so high.
The Mets initially offered Wheeler a $17.8 million qualifying offer earlier this offseason, to which was declined. They didn’t display much gumption in an attempt to re-sign him after that.
It will leave them searching for a fifth starter to join Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Steven Matz. They could attempt to make a splash in the free-agent market by going after a big name like Madison Bumgarner or they’ll take the more familiar, conservative route and promote from within. That would mean bringing either Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo back into the starting fold after extensive bullpen work.
As for the Phillies, the acquisition of Wheeler provides that top-three rotational help the organization has so desperately needed over the past few seasons.
Aaron Nola has received little support from Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin, and Nick Pivetta while Jake Arrieta has been hampered by injuries and inconsistencies.
Adding Wheeler with Nola — who did regress in 2019 after finishing third in the NL Cy Young Award voting two years ago — and a healthy Arrieta gives the top of the Phillies’ rotation a considerable boost.