There Goes Zack Wheeler: Phillies Spending Big, and the Pitching Market is Hot (UPDATE)

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There Goes Zack Wheeler: Phillies Spending Big, and the Pitching Market is Hot (UPDATE)

Chicago Cubs

There goes Zack Wheeler, one of the top free agents on the market, and several days before the Winter Meetings begin. This is a good sign.

Cole Hamels went off the board earlier today, too, so things are moving along. I like to see it.

The price tag is also highly suggestive that the market is going to continue to stretch at the top – the big free agents get more and more – and sag in the middle and at the bottom.

The Phillies have now made huge splashes in free agency in consecutive years, but their internal development has been lacking – thus a mediocre record the last couple years despite an aggressive rebuild in a major market.

Even with Wheeler in tow, it isn’t hard to see how the Phillies still have significant needs if they aim to topple the other contenders in the NL East. The Braves keep getting better, the Nationals still have a ton of talent (and presently a lot of money to work with), the Mets are aggressive, and even the Marlins are now acquiring players. You can bet that the Phillies will add a bat this offseason, at a minimum, and their ownership group – which was deeply involved in the managerial change to Joe Girardi – is probably a little impatient.

I would expect there to be some immediate fallout in the starting pitching market, as the teams that missed out on Wheeler might very quickly try to pivot to the guys just below him – Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, etc. I don’t expect the Cubs to be involved in that tier, but it’s possible if the trickle effect is strong enough, even the lower-tier, lesser-cost, higher-risk, high-upside types I expect the Cubs to go after might start signing. There are so many guys in that group that it’ll be interesting to see how many sign at or before the meetings next week. We talked about Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and Collin McHugh earlier, but there’s also Michael Pineda, Wade Miley, Kevin Gausman (though I like him better for the bullpen), Taijuan Walker, Rick Porcello, and so many more.

In a backwards way, it’s a good year not to be pursuing the top tier starting pitchers – here’s hoping the Cubs are aggressively talking trades for younger, controlled impact starters while also keeping a line to their preferred lower-tier starting pitchers.

UPDATE for posterity:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.