Philadelphia Phillies financial crunch reaching critical mass with trade rumors

Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Tropicana Field on September 26, 2020 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Tropicana Field on September 26, 2020 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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The Philadelphia Phillies are already putting one of their prized free agent signings on the trade block less than a year after he was signed.

When the Philadelphia Phillies inked Zack Wheeler to a five year, $118 million contract last offseason, he was expected to be a part of the solution. The Phillies needed another top of the rotation caliber arm to pair with Aaron Nola, and Wheeler fit that bill. He was supposed to be one of the pieces needed to push Philadelphia back to the postseason.

Although Wheeler lived up to his end of the bargain, the Phillies once again found themselves on the outside looking in. Bullpen issues torpedoed the season, leading to changes throughout the front office. Meanwhile, the Phillies were hit hard by the pandemic, losing a reported $145 million during the 2020 season.

Those losses are taking a toll on the roster. Not only are the Phillies seemingly content to let prized catcher J.T. Realmuto walk away, but they are also looking to unload salary. According to Buster Olney, they are listening to offers for Wheeler.

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To this point, the rumors are just surrounding Wheeler. There is no indication that Philadelphia has put Bryce Harper on the trade block yet, or that they are looking to unload further salary. And this could, in theory, just be a matter of the Phillies doing their due diligence.

Given the statements coming out of Philadelphia, it seems unlikely that this is just a matter of scoping the market. They have made dramatic cutbacks in the front office and are seemingly content to sit out free agency, waiting for potential bargains to fall into their lap. The 2021 season could be another long year.

Likewise, this may be the perfect time to trade Wheeler. Free agency is lacking in impact starters beyond Trevor Bauer. Wheeler adds another top starter to the list of potential trade targets, joining Blake Snell and Sonny Gray.

Wheeler lived up to expectations in his first season in Philadelphia. He posted a 2.92 ERA and a 1.169 WHiP in his 71 innings, striking out 53 batters with 16 walks and only three homers allowed. Even though he is due another $96.5 million over the next four years, he would be well worth that price.

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The Philadelphia Phillies financial crunch is reaching critical mass. It could result in Zack Wheeler being dealt just a year after signing.