Updated, 2 p.m.: ESPN's report was vehemently refuted by Phillies managing partner John Middleton on Sunday afternoon.
In the surest sign yet that this is going to be a difficult winter for the Phillies’ roster and standing in the NL East, ESPN reported Sunday morning that the Phillies have let other teams know they are open to trade offers for Zack Wheeler.
Wheeler is a 30-year-old, top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher who looks just as attractive now as he did a year ago, when he was signed to a five-year, $118 million contract by the Phillies.
Circumstances have obviously changed over these last 365 days. The pandemic hurt every team, some more than others, and some are in cost-cutting mode. We saw it last week all around the league with teams’ non-tender decisions.
The Phillies have let go of a significant portion of their workforce as a result, and the effects will also likely be felt throughout their roster.
There are several different ways to look at the Wheeler report.
It could be the Phillies doing due diligence to see what kind of trade market Wheeler has.
It could be the Phillies trying to free up the Wheeler money to put it toward re-signing J.T. Realmuto.
It could be the Phillies assessing their place in the NL East and coming to the harsh realization that they are far behind the Braves and will fall behind the Mets as Steve Cohen spends to reshape their roster. The Nationals remain a threat and are expected to add this offseason as well.
The No. 1 strength of this Phillies roster is its 1-2 punch of Aaron Nola and Wheeler. If they trade Wheeler, they will basically be punting away their chances of contending in 2021, unless such a move allows them to reallocate resources to equally impactful player(s). The question of whether you’d rather pay that money to Wheeler or Realmuto is an interesting one.
There has also been buzz that the Phillies are shopping Jean Segura, but his money will be difficult to move. Segura is owed $29.5 million over the next two seasons and has shown signs of decline with the Phillies, hitting 30 points lower here than he did the three prior seasons.