Zack Wheeler and Phillies reach $126 million, 3-year deal for 2025-27


PHILADELPHIA — Zack Wheeler turns 34 in May and just celebrated with his wife the birth of the couple’s third child.

He has more games to win for the Philadelphia Phillies and a World Series title to chase for Citizens Bank Park. But Wheeler doesn’t want to pitch deep into his 30s — “old, old,” as the ace right-hander put it — so he told his agent he wanted a new contract to be short and he wanted one with the Phillies.

Wheeler got what he wanted: one of the richest deals in baseball history.

Wheeler and the Phillies agreed Monday on a $126 million, three-year deal for 2025-27 that has the fourth-highest average salary in baseball history at $42 million.

The Phillies’ ace gets $23.5 million in 2024, the final season of a $118 million, five-year agreement that is among the best free agent contracts in Phillies history.

“I’ve really just enjoyed being here in Philly,” Wheeler said.. “The fans are the best. Playing in Citizens Bank in October, there’s nothing like it.”

Wheeler’s average salary trails only Los Angeles Dodgers two-way star Shohei Ohtani ($70 million), Texas pitcher Max Scherzer ($43.33 million) and Houston pitcher Justin Verlander ($43.33 million), the latter two who signed their deals with the New York Mets.

“I was happy he got over the 40 million mark because he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball the last couple of years,” first baseman Bryce Harper said. “So he definitely deserves it, man.”

Wheeler has led the NL in strikeouts and innings during his four seasons after missing time with injuries while with the Mets from 2013-19. He also leads all pitchers in wins above replacement (WAR) while with the Phillies at 19.3, per FanGraphs.

After he missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons following Tommy John surgery, Wheeler has made 90 starts the last three seasons.

An NL Cy Young Award runner-up in 2021, Wheeler also won a Gold Glove last season.

“What it tells us is we think Zack is as good as anybody in baseball right now,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “For us right now, when we look over the last handful of years, we think Zack Wheeler is as fine a pitcher in the game of baseball.”

The new deal for Wheeler adds yearly salaries of $42 million. He gets a hotel suite on road trips and agrees to make a $100,000 charitable contribution each year.

He doesn’t have a provision giving him the ability to approve a trade, but at the end of this season Wheeler will receive the right as a 10-year veteran who has spent five seasons with his current team.

Wheeler credited the training staff for keeping him healthy, making him a rarity among modern pitchers who is better in his 30s than his 20s. Wheeler said he never wanted a massive long-term deal and didn’t look for the seven or eight-year deals most top free agents seek these days — and the righty didn’t want lingering contract negotiations hanging over his head this season.

“I think it works out for me, I think it works out for the team,” Wheeler said. “I’d rather have it now than go to free agency and see what happens.”

The Phillies, who reached the World Series in 2022 and the NL Championship Series last year, now have their top-two starters anchoring the rotation for years to come. Philadelphia signed fellow right-hander Aaron Nola in the offseason to a $172 million, seven-year deal.

“It certainly helps because you figure to at least pencil in six innings every time those guys go out,” manager Rob Thomson said. “So, you’ll have to pick up a few innings here and there with them and then then piece it together with the other guys but then I mean our rotation is very strong.”

In 11 postseason games, Wheeler has a 2.42 ERA. He’s pitched at least six innings and allowed fewer than three runs in eight of his 10 postseason starts. He won three games in the 2023 postseason, including a 2-0 record against Arizona in the NLCS.

“Let’s establish right now, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball,” Dombrowski said. “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. In the postseason when he takes that ball, I can’t think of anybody I’d rather have take the ball than Zack.”

The Phillies continue to spend in their hunt for their first World Series title since 2008. Team owner John Middleton hasn’t been shy in signing free agents such as Harper, Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber, while keeping Nola, Wheeler and catcher J.T Realmuto in the fold with lucrative extensions.

“We have a high payroll, as you know,” Dombrowski said. “We are very appreciative of what ownership gives us. But there’s a limit on how much we can do. It’s not unlimited, but there will be questions I think we’ll face more at the end of the year.”

Wheeler is 87-63 with a 3.45 ERA in 227 career starts that dates to his 2013 debut with the Mets.

Wheeler and his wife, Dominique, welcomed a daughter, Winter, last week. It was the kind of event that gives Wheeler reason to want to enjoy retirement with his family — and savor the riches that come with his new deal.

“I don’t want to play until I’m old, old,” Wheeler said. “I want to be around my family. But I’m definitely enjoying the moment here, enjoying every moment I take the mound.”

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Associated Press freelance writer Anthony SanFilippo in Clearwater, Florida, contributed to this report.

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