Cold take’d again! What a bummer. But who saw this coming? Nobody really thought Zack Wheeler would become a Cy Young contender after leaving the Mets for the Phillies.
It seems like the New York Yankees saw it coming, though, which makes their decision making after the 2019 season a bit puzzling. Just a bit, though. After all, they still signed Gerrit Cole … though that was for a record-breaking $324 million.
Apparently, the Bombers had a deal in place with the Mets before the 2019 deadline for Wheeler until it fell through because of an undisclosed player’s medicals. Think that would’ve altered the Yankees’ run that year in a colossal way? Bolstering the starting rotation in any manner would’ve elevated that roster over the Astros.
All we’re wondering is if the Yankees felt Wheeler was a true difference maker, then why wouldn’t they target him and Cole that offseason?
All the more puzzling is that Wheeler signed for almost a third of what Cole signed for. Would another $118 million over five years really killed the Yankees that offseason?
Everything else was pretty much in place. The lone aspect of the roster that needed anything close to an “overhaul” was the starting rotation.
Why didn’t the Yankees just sign Zack Wheeler after the 2019 season?
No, we’re not calling the Yankees “cheap.” Not at all. And we know it’s a lot different to commit over $100 million to a guy like Wheeler, who’s had an extensive injury history, than it is to take on $2.5 million of his remaining salary for a playoff run.
At that year’s trade deadline, Wheeler had a 4.71 ERA before lowering it to 3.96 by the time the season ended … but the Yankees were willing to surrender assets for the right-hander (perhaps they saw a turnaround in the works). With the exponentially rising cost of starting pitchers on an annual basis, they didn’t deem him worth the $23.6 million AAV he signed for.
Though it may have seemed a tad pricey at the time, Wheeler is now one of the best pitchers in the National League (and baseball!) after logging a 2.82 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 300 strikeouts across 43 starts (284.1 innings) since the start of 2020.
Had the Yankees gone for Wheeler, too, they would’ve invested $442 million in their starting rotation for the next nine years ($49.1 million per season). Plus, Wheeler’s contract seemed like it would’ve been right in the Yankees’ wheelhouse. They’d be paying for him during his best years only through his age-34 season, whereas Cole is here through his age-37 campaign. There’s much more exposure to pay for regression on a nine-year deal than a five-year deal, and pairing them together would’ve been the best of both worlds: at least three years of supreme prime seasons and a chance to go for the jugular in the AL.
Though we certainly weren’t on board with Wheeler at the time, the Yankees’ actions at the trade deadline that year suggested they might’ve seen something we didn’t … and then they didn’t act on it in the offseason when the investment wasn’t exactly prohibitive.
That’s it for this topic, because we’d rather not get sick wondering what life would be like with Cole and Wheeler atop the Yankees’ rotation and what could’ve happened the last two seasons.