Dodgers: Zack Wheeler should be on LA’s free agent radar
The Dodgers will likely be looking to sign a free agent starting pitcher with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill both entering free agency.
As soon as the World Series ends, the Dodgers will seek to improve their roster and try to come up with a plan to not only return to the World Series but to win it. With Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill set to become free agents the Dodgers will look to sign at least one starting pitcher if they don’t bring both Hill and Ryu back.
Gerrit Cole will easily be the most sought after free agent and if Stephen Strasburg opts out he will join Cole as the two most sought after free-agent pitchers. The Dodgers should have some level of interest in signing one of Strasburg or Cole although it remains to be seen if Andrew Friedman will finally land one of the premier free agents on the market.
If the Dodgers do miss out on Cole and Strasburg then the options become wide open on who they sign to bolster their starting rotation. The Dodgers have plenty of young pitching talent but they need at least one more innings eater with Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and Julio Urias all unlikely to pitch more than 150 innings each in 2020.
One intriguing starter the Dodgers should look into if they fail to land Cole or Strasburg is Zack Wheeler. Wheeler was the sixth overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft by the San Francisco Giants. He was dealt to the New York Mets in 2011 for Carlos Beltran and had been with the Mets ever since. Now he is entering free agency for the first time in his career.
Zack has the type of velocity that starting pitchers have used to dominate this postseason. In 2019, Wheeler’s fastball averaged 96.8 MPH. In addition to his fastball, Zack Wheeler throws a slider (91.2 MPH), changeup (89 MPH), sinker (96.5), and a curveball (80.7). He has the kind of stuff that can overpower batters in the postseason.
Outside of Walker Buehler, the Dodgers’ 2019 playoff rotation did not have any hard-throwing starters. Wheeler has had his share of arm ailments including Tommy John surgery, biceps tendonitis, and a stress reaction but he has made at least 29 starts in each of the last two seasons for the Mets.
More from LA Dodgers News
- Giants laughably sign pitcher that Dodgers absolutely own
- Dave Roberts’ quote about Padres in NLDS should motivate Dodgers
- Former Astro seemingly takes uncalled for shot at Cody Bellinger after Cubs deal
- Dodgers’ 2023 lineup without Trea Turner isn’t as impressive as it should be
- Recapping who Dodgers gained and lost in Rule 5 Draft
In each of the last two seasons, Zack Wheeler has posted an ERA of 3.31 (2018) and 3.96 (2019). His FIP for each of those two seasons was even better as he pitched to a FIP of 3.25 and 3.48. Zack has also been very good at limiting hard contact as his hard-hit percentage in 2019 was 31.4% which is lower than Hyun-Jin Ryu’s hard-hit rate of 34.2%.
In 2018, Wheeler posted an even better hard-hit percentage as he allowed just 24.8% of balls put in play to be hit at a hard rate. When you factor in that Wheeler is one of the hardest throwing starting pitchers in the game, it makes that even more impressive. Pitching a full season in the NL West which has three pitcher-friendly parks could do wonders for Wheeler.
While every Dodger fan has Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg at the top of their wish list, there is a chance the Dodgers fail to sign either. Strasburg could stay in Washington even if he opts out and the bidding for Gerrit Cole could lead to a contract far beyond the Dodgers’ comfort level.
Adding a pitcher like Wheeler should give the Dodgers enough financial wiggle room to add another bat via free agency or trade. While it would be a disappointment if the Dodgers fail to land an ace, Zack Wheeler would be a nice plan B signing and upgrade LA’s rotation with another high-velocity starter.