The Blue Jays missed on another free agent target when Zack Wheeler signed in Philadelphia, only this time it was pretty clear it was the right decision.
The Blue Jays continue their search for upgrades to their starting rotation, and unfortunately on Wednesday another option came off of the free agent board when Zack Wheeler agreed to a five year pact with the Philadelphia Phillies.
I’m sure most Blue Jays fans reacted with disappointment at seeing the initial headline, but now that I’ve seen more of the details about the contract that Wheeler signed, I’m actually glad that the Blue Jays backed off.
If you ask me, things got a little out of hand with where Wheeler landed at five years and 118 million to head to the Phillies, and chances are it would have taken more to get him to come to Toronto.
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How much more? Well, that’s hard to say, but with a more difficult tax bracket than Wheeler will work with in Philadelphia and a more “win-now” roster to join, it likely would have taken a fairly significant difference. Maybe even 130 or 140 million, and that’s not an exaggeration.
With that in mind, I certainly believe the Blue Jays made the right choice to back off of the bidding for the talented right-hander. Don’t get me wrong, he would have looked great in a Blue Jays uniform, but my article from earlier today expressed concern about something in the neighbourhood of five years and 100 million, and he ended up far surpassing that.
What will be really important for Ross Atkins and the rest of the front office is finding an appropriate place to pivot and to look for help for their starting rotation. That could come in the form of other, lesser free agents like Dallas Keuchel, Michael Pineda, or even guys like Tanner Roark. Or, perhaps they look more seriously at the trade market now that Wheeler and a handful of others have signed elsewhere. They’ll have their work cut out for them, and the idea of coming up empty-handed feels pretty unacceptable.
However, I think I could stomach that more easily than the idea of paying Wheeler 24-28 million per season, even if the Blue Jays could really use a top of the rotation arm. The idea of paying an AAV of 20 million seemed high to yours truly, and would have been built more on the potential he hasn’t quite reached more than what he’s actually accomplished during his MLB career. Don’t get me wrong, Wheeler is better than anyone on the Blue Jays’ current MLB depth chart, but the payday he just received was unexpected.
For argument’s sake, mlbtraderumors.com projects that Dallas Keuchel will receive somewhere around three years and 39 million on the open market this off-season (they had Wheeler at five years and 100 million). Granted, he’s not quite as valuable as Wheeler in terms of WAR over the last two seasons, and he doesn’t have that enticing untapped potential, but he has a much longer track record of success and a Cy Young Award on his mantle. If the Blue Jays are going to overpay to get someone, I’d much rather see them offer a guy like Keuchel 60 million over four years. That would still leave them with 58 million if Wheeler would have come to Toronto for what he ultimately signed for, and we already know he turned down a bigger offer from the White Sox. We’re probably talking about a 70 or 80 million dollar difference.
It’s long been a thorn in my side that the Blue Jays don’t spend like the big market team that they are, but in this case I’m actually glad they bowed out when things got crazy. I won’t mind eating my words a few years from now if I turn out to be wrong, but I just don’t think Wheeler is worth anywhere near the dough that he got from the Phillies. For once, I’m glad that the Blue Jays were “financially responsible”, even if it’s not my money.