Let’s Talk About Zack Wheeler


While many fans of the Dodgers this offseason have been pondering potential roster upgrades on a position-by-position basis, the big question that has emerged is whether Andrew Friedman and his group will make a big splash rather than a few minor upgrades here and there.

As far as defining a “big splash,” we tried to put a monetary value on a prospective acquisition, but I think I like what our friend Scoop said the most—”any player who could immediately become an impact starter in the big leagues or slide right into the Top 5 list on the farm.”

Although there’s been quite a bit of chatter about free agents like Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson—alongside a few trade rumors surrounding Francisco Lindor—the consensus among most folks close to the team is that the club is more likely to pursue pitching. Since the free agent market is relatively barren of any high-impact relievers—coupled with the fact that Friedman often prefers to build his bullpens from within the organization—there’s a good chance the front office group might be targeting an upgrade to the starting rotation this winter.

If you haven’t been paying attention, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg sit alone in the elite class of free agent pitchers, as both righties will certainly net deals well over the $30 million AAV mark, regardless of the length of their respective new contracts.

In the next tier are three arms—Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Wheeler and Madison Bumgarner—all of whom will likely earn AAVs somewhere just above the $20 million range.

Beyond that, there really isn’t much to write about unless you’re willing to take a risk on guys like Kyle Gibson, Cole Hamels, Tanner Roark, Wade Miley or Ivan Nova.

So far this winter, we’ve talked about Ryu a ton. For the record, I’m among those who think a Ryu signing would be the smart way to go, especially since the lefty has gone on record as saying that he’d settle for a three or four-year deal if he would be able to remain on the West Coast. And, despite being represented by the notorious Scott Boras, some pundits feel that Ryu could ultimately agree to a deal somewhere in the three-year, $60 million range—a salary that certainly falls inside Friedman’s comfort zone.

If Ryu would be able to stay healthy over those three years—and that’s a huge “if”—he could end up being the steal of this winter’s free agent market.

Nevertheless, there’s been a lot of attention put on the right-hander Wheeler lately. There is certainly plenty of upside considering he has more than four quality offerings in his arsenal—coupled with the fact that he can touch near triple digits with his heater—but if there’s one downfall, it’s that he’s tied to draft pick compensation since he declined the Mets’ $17.8 million qualifying offer for next season. As much as Friedman and the Dodgers value high draft picks, one wonders if this would be a deal-breaker.

The biggest blemish on Wheeler’s resume is the UCL surgery he had administered early in 2015. It was anything but a normal recovery for the Georgia native, as several setbacks prevented him from pitching in two, full big-league seasons.

Once he did return in 2017, he had more elbow issues later that summer that kept him at bay for more than two months. In all, he made just 17 starts that season. Lately, though, he has proven his durability and logged 29 starts in 2018 and 31 starts last year.

As far as his scouting report goes, he has five different offerings, a four-seam, a sinker, a slider, a curve and a splitter (which is a version of his changeup on the stat sheets). Here’s a breakdown by velocity from Brooks Baseball:


Some pundits have Wheeler landing a contract worth five years and about $100 million, but his major numbers bug me enough to be bothered by the fact that he’ll be netting more than $20 million annually.

The 29-year-old former first-round draft choice had career highs in innings (195-1/3) and punchouts (195) last season, but his 3.96 ERA, 3.48 FIP and 1.259 WHIP in 2019 were not earth-shattering by any means.

In comparison, Ryu’s exceptional season netted a 2.32 ERA, a 3.10 FIP and a 1.007 WHIP over 182-2/3 innings.

Lifetime, Wheeler has a 3.77 ERA, a 3.71 FIP, a 1.294 WHIP and a 8.7 K/9 over 126 games (all of which were starts) and 749-1/3 innings.

Perhaps some scouts are high on Wheeler’s scouting report because of his repertoire, the fact that he’s still under 30 years of age, and his above-average velocity, but I’m still taking Ryu all day long regardless of his injury history, especially if he can be had on a contract of much shorter length for the same AAV.

Of course, a blockbuster trade is always a possibility (see Lindor)—specifically if Friedman has a desire to upgrade his relief corps from the outside—but everyone familiar with his history knows the tendency of Friedman to hoard all of his prospects of value, making a high-impact acquisition through the trade market rather unlikely.


52 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Zack Wheeler

    1. Which ones Jesus? Certainly not wins, innings pitched, strikeouts or wins above replacement.

      I like Wheeler. The question one has to answer is who over the next 5 years will pitch more innings and put up the most WAR? Projections for next year (for what they are worth) have Ryu behind Wheeler in nearly every stat, including innings and WAR.

      I don’t know what 3 year projections look like for these two guys, but I’m guessing Friedman has them.


      1. Saw this on another Dodger blog.

        Stripling’s ERA and ERA+ (adjusted for park and league)
        3.51 and 115 (means he’s 15% better than the average pitcher)

        Wheeler’s ERA and ERA+ (adjusted for park and league)
        3.77 and 100 (means he is an average pitcher)


  1. I saw a post recently (unfortunately I can’t remember where) that compared Wheeler’s 2019 to Cole’s last season with the Pirates and the gist of the article was that maybe his next team could make some slight adjustments to his repertoire/frequency of various pitches and turn him into something pretty spectacular. That gets me very interested.
    The elbow situation gets me very worried. I’m not really sure how to balance the two in my brain. We know what we have in Ryu and my first impulse would be to go after him right now. If we can’t sign him quickly, maybe turn our attention to Wheeler. I’m not at all happy with the idea of going into the season with a rotation of Buehler, Kershaw, Maeda, Urias and May. Between Maeda’s wishy washy starter results and Urias/May never having gone anywhere near a full MLB season as a starter, that’s way too many unknowns. I’m assuming we’ll be outbid for Cole and Strasburg stays in DC.


    1. I saw that too. If it’s the same one they were talking about his superior spin rate.

      It’s worth mentioning that Ryu too has had his own surgeries. So did Buehler. Wheeler has thrown 182 and 195 innings the last two years. He projects 190 again next year. Ryu’s recent numbers, and his projections, look nothing like that.


      1. You’re a smart guy Dennis, why do you think they would believe what he did this year night not be repeatable.


      2. Do you think Boras would consider Steamer projections when AF tries to negotiate a contract for Ryu? Never mind, that was a rhetorical question.


      3. RotoChamp has him at 179 and 3.17. I could see that, though I might take the under on the IP. The question remains, can he do that for 3 more years. He’s 33 next year. He hasn’t come close to what he did this year since he was 26.


      4. If, after that age 26 year, someone would have asked you which of the next 5 seasons would be his most like that year, you certainly wouldn’t have guessed his age 32 season. He’s getting better with age. Yes, he’s had injuries, but I think he’s worth the gamble, assuming it isn’t something outrageous. I’m fine with something around 3/54 – 3/60. Whether that would be enough to get him I have no idea.


      5. My theory was that Ryu wants to come back under the right set of circumstances. Question is, does AF want him back? Let’s assume he does. Boras will not want Ryu to sign for 3/60 today. He’ll think he can get something better, although maybe not from AF. Does AF first want to be sure he can’t get Cole/Stransburg before he moves on Ryu? That could take a while to find out. He probably won’t/can’t sign one of those guys plus Ryu. Do Ryu and AF both do what’s comfortable and get together soon in spite of what Boras wants? That is the question I expect to see answered in the next couple of weeks.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I’d do it too. But I’ll go on record, since we aren’t talking Cole or Strasburg, I’d like Wheeler. And I’ll also go on record, Buehler, Kershaw, Maeda, Urias, May, Gonsolin, Stripling isn’t a bad rotation. On a team that will lead the league in scoring, this rotation could easily win the West and possibly even lose another World Series.

        And Jefe…. about which year would I have thought might be his best…. remember Greinke’s contract year? Age 31. 9.1 WAR. Amazing motivational tool that contract year.

        Yahoo has Rendon and Ryu to LA, Wheeler to Philly, Donaldson to Washington, Cole to Angels, and if LA doesn’t land Ryu, Hamels could be in play.


  2. Well folks, Drew Pomeranz will not be the “major acquisition” Keith, Gary and I were predicting. (yes, I know, he wouldn’t have qualified as a major acquisition, but I sure would have like to have added him).
    Padres have scooped him up. No details yet.


  3. Padres also made a 4 player deal with the Brewers, sending Urias and Lauer to the Brew Crew for Davies and an outfielder. Vogt signs with the D-Backs. And Ol Andy sits on his hands. Seriously, putting your faith in that guy to do something spectacular when he never has is a waste of energy. Look, if he by some miracle pulls off a huge signing or trade, I will be the first one to eat crow. I just do not see it. Sure, the Dodgers have an interest in Cole, Rendon, Betts, Strasburg, Ryu. Donaldson, but not for a penny more than what they think they are worth. Betts would cost them players, not as big a haul as one would expect since he is in the last year of his deal. So what is he worth? Does he make the Dodgers 9 games better than they were last year? The 9 games comes from the fact that you need to win 11 to win the series, and they won 2. I think it will be business as usual. Maybe one free agent who will actually contribute, otherwise it is more like another Koehler signing.


  4. Pomeranz is getting a 3 year deal. Pads will have a pretty decent back end of the pen. Pomeranz and Yates. Well the day of the bird is almost upon us. The holiday season means good food and good friends. It also means family. Possibly the only regret I have living where I do is that I am a long way from any of my grand children, and my daughters. Here is hoping that this season some of the things we hope for will come to pass. More than anything, I would like to see a time when there are no American troops stationed over seas. I know this is a pipe dream, and it will never come to pass in my lifetime, nor will world peace. But I do wish everyone on here a hope for a great day tomorrow with family, or friends, or just watching reruns of Dodger games. Be safe all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Dennis. It will be a white one, the snow is still on the ground and it is 23 outside and dropping to 3 later this evening.


      2. We had a coating of snow here in Pennsylvania one day last week, but nothing significant yet. Looks like temps will be holding steady in the 40s throughout the weekend. It’s been right around freezing overnight.


  5. Apparently Pomeranz is getting a 4 year deal for 34 mil (maybe that includes option/buyout). In any case he got that for 27 innings of very good relief pitching last year after stinking up the joint for the first half in SF.
    I really wanted us to sign Pomeranz but that’s a crazy contract.


  6. Villar placed on waivers by the O’s. Perfect leadoff guy if the Dodgers are interested. Switch hitter with pop. Rumored trade has Dylan Bundy coming to LA from Baltimore.


    1. And what do we need Dylan Bundy for? Or are we converting him to a reliever?
      By the way Bear, you can start apologizing to Keith, Gary and me right now. AF has just completed his FIRST major deal of the winter (and I do mean major). Are you sitting down?
      We have just signed Rocky Gale to a minor league contract!!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Apologize? Not on your life, and Bundy is EXACTLY the kind of trade AF revels in. A reclamation project with a huge arm and low price tag. Gale>>????? He could have had a lefty hitting catcher in Vogt to compliment Smith. Sorry, I think it is going to be you and the rest of the Lemming clan apologizing to the Scooper and me.


    1. I’ve seen that the O’s are looking to possibly trade Bundy but haven’t seen the Dodgers mentioned in any of those reports. Where did you see that?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think it was on Dodger Digest…one of those Dodger blogs. And it said the same thing i just mentioned, the kind of pick up Friedman loves to make.


  9. About Wheeler. I like the guy, if he were to stay healthy, he would be a nice addition. Of course if you could guarantee the health of these guys, re-signing Ryu would be a no brainer. Ol Andy getting beat at the strike early game. He did exactly the same thing last year. Puig and Kemp trade came in mid December. I am so not sure which direction the so called genius will go. I do not expect an earth shattering news hogging move. Some side steps and minor trades. A bunch of minor league free agent deals ala Gale, and not much else.


    1. You’re failing to see the big picture Bear. Without the Gale signing, the ball would go all the way to the backstop every time a pitch was thrown (if it didn’t hit the ump first). Rocky was a major signing, although slightly under our bar with regard to Friedman moves this winter.
      It’s insights like this that make me feel we (Keith/Gary/Jeff) should rename ourselves the Farsighted Fellows. (alliteration always works well when choosing a team name).

      Happy Thanksgiving everyone. In spite of no WS championships since ’88 I hope each and every one of you has things to be thankful for.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He only had about 150 at bats at Tulsa last year so I’m thinking he’ll definitely start the year in AA. Rocky and Kaybear at OKC.


      2. Dinner isn’t until 5:00 tonight so if they laced my bird I wouldn’t have been exposed to it yet.
        On the other hand, someone may have laced my eggs this morning.
        Does my analysis seem flawed to you Bear? Is that the reason for your rude comment (although I know you say it with great affection). 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Flawed would be putting it nicely. Wacko is more like it. And I have a great affection for you Jefe, as a poster, but not an analyst…..


    1. Surprised me too. We’re talking about a 40 year old pitcher with a long history of injuries, who just went through elbow surgery and will probably miss at least half the season. Wait a minute. Did they say 10 major league teams? Maybe they’re all in the Independent leagues. All kidding aside, I’d still like to have him back if he’s healthy and cheap.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, 10 MLB teams are interested. He would no doubt not cost much. Especially considering it will be mid July at least before he is ready. Kind of fits right in with the kind of signing your hero likes to make. Farsighted Fellows? Not too catchy though. No pizazz. There was a story about Vinny. How he was a little down because he was not so well versed in analytics, and all of the current broadcasters use them. Much to my dislike by the way.


  10. Meetings start in about 2 weeks. So I guess we will soon see what Andrew the Lesser has in store for the faithful followers of Blue. I have seen glaciers move faster than this guy….of course that is in movies where global warming is featured. It is all about trust my friends, and I trust this guy about as much as I do politicians.


    1. Andrew and I have discussed it, and we both feel that the early bird gets the worm, but since we aren’t looking to get any worms we feel that we want to strike late. We’re going to make all of our moves the first two weeks of February which is the same schedule that Boras uses. So…………………..you’ll be riding us from now until then, telling us how we were all wrong and we aren’t getting anyone. And then in Feburary we’ll sign Cole and Rendon and Strasburg and Ryu and trade for Betts and Lindor and Kluber and Bryant. I can hardly wait!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If he did all of that, I would be eating crow for a long time. We all know he waits and waits, and waits, and waits..well, you get the picture. If he made one of those moves you have mentioned, I would be totally SHOCKED. I would be more shocked if he was actually talking to you. Been at the happy juice already today?????


  11. Crow – start getting your recipes ready.
    What makes you think AF isn’t talking to me? I’m a very important guy with a tremendous amount of baseball knowledge and any baseball exec would be privileged to have my phone number. This is the second insult you’ve hurled at me today. Now you may not be invited to the victory parade. (by the way, I’m prepared to keep this up for another 30 years in case it takes that long to win our championship).


  12. “And then in Feburary we’ll sign Cole and Rendon and Strasburg and Ryu and trade for Betts and Lindor and Kluber and Bryant. I can hardly wait!”

    That’s a lot of crow right there. But obviously you’re kidding.

    I can state this with absolute certainty – in February it will be cold in Wisconsin. It will have been cold for 4 months already and will be cold for 2 more months. There will be no Dodgers in Wisconsin in February. Even though Lux is from there he has the means and the good sense to be out of there by then. As for who the Dodgers sign or don’t sign they will do both. They will sign and not sign players all winter long. The roster churn for which Friedman is famous will continue. He will sign mostly ho and hums, a few blahs, a meh or two, but I believe he will get somebody in here that will offer hope, probably as in I hope he lasts a few months before going on the injured list. But the team will be good enough to not disappoint until late in the year.

    So Scoopadamus has written, so let it be done….. later. It’s not even winter yet. Not gonna be winter for 3 more weeks. Damm the off season is long.


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