The Philadelphia Phillies have signed free-agent starting pitcher Zack Wheeler to a five-year deal worth $118 million, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Wheeler, 29, ended the 2019 season with a 11-8 record and a 3.96 ERA in 27 starts (in a career-high 195 1/3 innings) for the Mets. The right-hander posted a 1.26 WHIP with a career-high 195 strikeouts last season.
Wheeler, whose fastball averaged nearly 97 mph in 2019, was considered one of the top second-tier starters on the free-agent market behind top-end arms Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg.
CBS Sports ranked Wheeler as the seventh-best available free agent on the market this offseason. He became the second notable starting pitcher to sign with an NL East team on Wednesday after veteran lefty Cole Hamels agreed on a one-year, $18 million deal with the Braves.
Wheeler ended 2019 averaging 8.98 strikeouts per nine innings and struck out 23.6 percent of the batters he faced, compared to just 2.30 walks per nine innings. The 2019 season also saw Wheeler post double-digit wins for the second year in a row.
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Wheeler rejected his one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer from the Mets in November, and the club will now receive third-round draft-pick compensation.
Over the last two seasons, Wheeler has proved to be a solid starter, averaging 30 starts while posting a 3.65 ERA and a 3.37 WHIP.
He missed both the 2015 and 2016 seasons following Tommy John surgery and subsequent setbacks, but worked his way back to earn a spot in New York’s rotation.
Wheeler was a highly coveted arm this winter and also reportedly had interest from the White Sox, Reds and Rangers. The White Sox offered Wheeler more than $118 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Wheeler’s wife is from New Jersey and the proximity to Philadelphia played a role in Wheeler’s decision, Rosenthal reported.
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