Yankees should stay far away from Zack Wheeler despite trade rumors


The Yankees shouldn’t bother getting involved in Zack Wheeler trade talks.

The New York Yankees need pitching and some might think a fruitful opportunity just arose for general manager Brian Cashman.

According to the latest industry buzz, the Philadelphia Phillies are open to fielding trade offers for Zack Wheeler, who they signed to a five-year deal last offseason when they swiped him from the New York Mets. Philly likely thought an Aaron Nola-Jake Arrieta-Wheeler trio atop the rotation would do damage in the short term, but that wasn’t the case.

Now, the organization is scrambling to get rid of big contracts on the payroll and have already stated JT Realmuto will not be re-signed. Wheeler potentially going next makes sense because the Phillies have Nola under a team-friendly deal through 2023 and it’ll be hard for them to get rid of guys like Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and Odubel Herrera.

But even though Wheeler sounds enticing and the Yankees have been linked to him in the past, this is not a trade Cashman should make.

The right-hander has four years and $95.5 million remaining on his contract. Why give up assets and inherit that salary when you can just sign a better pitcher in Trevor Bauer for a bit more? Some have estimated Bauer will command $25 million per year, which is pretty much what Wheeler will be averaging through 2024.

Secondly, the Yankees need a bonafide No. 2 starter, not someone as inconsistent as Wheeler. The former Met has never pitched more than 195.1 innings in a single season and he missed the 2015 and 2016 campaigns due to elbow issues. He’ll be 31 next year and has made made 30 or more starts in a single season just twice in his six years of experience.

What else? He doesn’t strike out batters as much as you’d like for a high-priced pitcher — 779 punch outs in 820.1 career innings. His 1.28 WHIP doesn’t instill confidence either. This, in all honesty, would likely be a downgrade from Masahiro Tanaka, and it’d cost a lot more.

If the Phillies aren’t open to trading Nola, then the Yankees shouldn’t even bother getting on the horn with them. Wheeler, especially at this price, isn’t what New York’s pitching staff needs, despite Cashman expressing interest in him via trade prior to the 2019 deadline and then being linked to him when he hit free agency a few months later.

Though some of his advanced stats (FIP and ERA-) have improved (and look really good) over the last two seasons, the Yankees can’t get caught up in that. Very rare is it that a pitcher starts to hit his stride after the age of 30. It’s simply too big of a risk for the Yanks to take when there are other favorable trade options and a better free agent choice in Bauer, who won’t cost much more.