Dodgers: Should the Dodgers pursue Zack Wheeler in free agency?
The Dodgers are likely looking to add one veteran starting pitcher to their rotation. Should the Dodgers pursue Zack Wheeler?
The Dodgers find themselves in an interesting situation this off-season. Hyun-Jin Ryu’s departure creates a void of innings in their starting rotation but the blue does have plenty of talented young starters in Dustin May, Julio Urias, and Tony Gonsolin. Still, the Dodgers could look to bring in one more veteran starter to make sure they have enough innings to cover the 2020 season.
While every Dodger fan is hoping the club signs Gerrit Cole, the likelihood is that the team will not sign Cole as they have the offense and bullpen to address as well. A month ago I wrote why the Dodgers should pursue Zack Wheeler and why he would be an intriguing addition. After thinking that idea over some more, there are doubts about that possibility.
Zack Wheeler is going to get at least $16 million per season on his new deal. Would that money be worth spending with Julio Urias and Dustin May ready to take on a starting role in 2020? According to Steamer, Wheeler is projected to pitch to an ERA of 4.27 in 2019. His career ERA stands at 3.77 entering free agency.
That projection is mediocre and Steamer projects Dustin May and Julio Urias to pitch better next season. May comes in at a projected ERA of 4.05 while Urias comes in at a slightly lower projected ERA of 4.02. In 2020, Urias and May will combine to make around two million dollars total as Julio is projected to earn $1.7 mil in arbitration for next season.
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The Dodgers would save at least $14 million dollars if Zack Wheeler gets an average annual salary of $16 million and that is considered the floor for his next contract. Wheeler has an extensive injury history and even if he comes with a clean bill of health for 2020, he is no lock to stay healthy over the duration of his next contract. That money could be spent on a true upgrade like the bullpen desperately needs.
While you can say the same for most starters, especially Julio Urias, that is still a pretty large contract to gamble on Wheeler staying on the mound. Many believe there is untapped potential that Wheeler has yet to tap into but he will turn 30 years old next May. He seems to be a pitcher with an ERA in the mid 3’s and that is certainly something the Dodgers could get out of May, Urias, or even Tony Gonsolin.
The most intriguing part of Wheeler’s repertoire is that he throws in the upper 90’s and velocity tends to play up even more in the postseason. Dustin May is a hard thrower himself and Julio Urias should still average 93-94 MPH on his fastball as a starter. Tony Gonsolin could also force his way into the rotation in 2020.
Wheeler is a great option for a team looking for a mid-rotation starter with upside but given the Dodgers’ young talent their off-season agenda should be to go big or do nothing when it comes to starting pitchers. On second thought, the Dodgers should not try to sign Zack Wheeler unless they make a trade involving one of their starting pitchers.