September 26, 2021

Sources — Phillies seen as top bidder for Zack Wheeler (ESPN)

The bidding for right-hander Zack Wheeler continues to progress toward resolution, with the Philadelphia Phillies seen by sources as the most potent bidders — and the Reds, White Sox and Rangers also involved.

Wheeler, 29, is widely viewed in the industry as the best of the second tier of free-agent starting pitchers, underneath the mega-expensive Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. Wheeler had a solid season for the Mets in 2019, posting a 3.96 ERA, and other teams are pursuing him ardently for the same reasons they did before the trade deadline. He’s young, relative to other free-agent starters; he’s been healthy recently, with 60 starts over the past two seasons, and he has plus stuff, with an average fastball velocity of 96.7 mph in 2019, fourth-best in the majors.

According to sources, Wheeler is expected to get a deal of at least five years and at least $100 million. The Phillies have a need for starting pitching help, and with Jake Arrieta entering the last year of his deal, Philadelphia has big-market budget power and some forthcoming payroll flexibility.

Reds owner Bob Castellini has been making a push over the past year to get back to the playoffs, which Cincinnati…

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