Phillies' Zack Wheeler makes MLB history with 3-year contract extension

Phillies' Zack Wheeler makes MLB history with 3-year contract extension

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Philadelphia Phillies veteran starter Zack Wheeler didn’t wait until next year’s free agency period to cash in on a new contract. 

Wheeler is staying in the City of Brotherly Love after inking a three-year deal worth $126 million, which kicks in during the 2025 season. 

Wheeler is set to make $23.5 million for the 2024 campaign.

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Zack Wheeler of the Philadelphia Phillies has signed a three-year deal worth $126 million. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images/File)

The 33-year-old, who pitched to a 3.61 ERA last season, explained why he took a short-term deal with the Phillies as he looks ahead to life after baseball.

“I do enjoy pitching and I want to be here,” Wheeler said during a news conference on Monday at the Phillies’ spring home, BayCare Ballpark. “I love competing. But I don’t want to play until I’m old-old. And I want to be around my family. But I’m definitely enjoying the moment here, enjoying every moment I take the mound. It’s special, and not everybody gets to do it. Not everybody gets to do it as long as I have. I’m grateful for that.”

Wheeler’s $42 million per year that he will earn starting next season is the largest contract extension in MLB history.

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Compared to other veteran pitchers in MLB, Wheeler’s price tag in 2025 is the third-highest average annual value for a pitcher, with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander ahead of him. It is also the fourth-highest of any player in MLB, the top spot going to Los Angeles Dodgers Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani after he signed a $700 million contract this offseason. 

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski explained the Wheeler extension from the front-office perspective. 

Zack Wheeler’s deal is the largest contract extension in MLB history. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“We said, ‘Well, let’s establish right now he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball,'” he explained. “Is he first, second, third? We don’t have to get into that. But he’s one of the best. And the reality is, when you start not only talking about being one of the best pitchers, he’s one of the best big-game pitchers in the game of baseball. So, in the postseason, when he takes that ball, I can’t think of anybody that I would rather have to take the mound than Zack.”

Since he joined the Phillies in 2020, Wheeler has started 10 games and made a relief appearance in the 2023 NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, owning a 2.42 ERA over those outings. The only time he’s struggled in the postseason was the 2020 World Series against the Houston Astros, where he had a 5.32 ERA over 10.1 innings in two starts. 

Despite the Phillies’ loss to the D-Backs last season, Wheeler had a 1.84 ERA over 14.2 innings, giving up nine hits and three earned runs with 17 strikeouts to two walks. 

In the regular season, Wheeler eats innings for the Phillies, which is great to preserve the bullpen. He had 192 innings last season, striking out 212 hitters to just 39 walks over 32 starts. 

His only All-Star appearance also came in Philly in 2021, when he had a league-leading 213.1 innings over 32 starts, owning a 2.78 ERA with 247 strikeouts. He finished second in Cy Young voting that year, losing the award to Milwaukee Brewers starter Corbin Burnes. 

Zack Wheeler

Zack Wheeler of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning in Game 5 of the NLCS on Oct. 21, 2023, in Phoenix. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

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With a swing-and-miss arsenal that includes a high-90s fastball and tight-breaking slider, the Phillies lock up Wheeler for years to come as they try to keep their championship window open.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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