What a day.
Early Sunday, a new report from Buster Olney of ESPN said that the Phillies were open to trade offers involving starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, sending the entire fanbase into a frenzy. Managing partner John Middleton and Phillies president Andy MacPhail denied the rumors through a team spokesperson.
Middleton took it a step further in a phone conversation with Olney, saying “If they offered me Babe Ruth, I wouldn’t trade him,” Middleton said. He also mentioned Mike Schmidt and Ted Williams as players he wouldn’t trade Wheeler for.
“I have authorized no one to have a conversation about trading him.” When Olney asked about his sources, Middleton said “They’re lying to you.”
According to Olney, high-ranking executives from other teams were told by the Phillies that “they are facing tough financial decisions and are open to offers for Wheeler.”
If the Phillies were to trade Wheeler, it would signify that the team does not plan to compete in 2021 and beyond. The team lacked starting pitching depth at the top of the rotation heading into the 2020 season and Wheeler, who signed a five-year/118 million dollar contract with the Phillies, was exactly the player the Phillies needed him to be.
He went 4-2 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts. Wheeler ranked second in MLB in double play balls (13), seventh in home runs per nine innings (0.38) and second to only Max Fried in bWAR among National League pitchers (2.9). There is no logical reason to trade Wheeler from a strictly baseball perspective.
According to Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press, the Phillies have lost around 145 million dollars in revenue in 2020. Per Olney, Middleton told him on Sunday that the team has lost an excess of 100 million dollars. They will most likely look to cut payroll relative to what it was last season (around $204 million). That could come in the form of trading Jean Segura, who the Phillies are rumored to be interested in dealing and forgoing spending big in free agency.
For now, it seems like they’ll hold off on trading arguably the best pitcher on their team.
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