Top Phillies officials on Sunday afternoon vehemently shot down a report that said they were open to trade offers for starting pitcher Zack Wheeler.
“There’s zero truth to this,” said managing partner John Middleton, deliberately enunciating every word.
Moments earlier, club president Andy MacPhail picked up his phone on the first ring.
“There’s no validity to it,” he said, anticipating the question. “Zack is very much in our plans going forward.”
Middleton and MacPhail were responding to a jarring report posted on ESPN.com Sunday morning that stated the Phillies were “facing a financial crunch” and open to trade offers for Wheeler.
“I’m not surprised that other clubs might inquire about him,” MacPhail said. “It’s not something on our radar.”
The Phillies signed Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract a year ago and he delivered a strong season in 2020, going 4-2 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts.
The Phillies have some significant holes to fill on their roster this winter, but starting pitching is an area that is in good shape with Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin in the top three spots of the rotation. With those arms, the Phillies have a chance to compete three out of five days. Trading Wheeler would significantly weaken an area of strength and likely signal that the Phils were drifting back toward a rebuild.
Though the team is facing budget limitations after losing what ownership said was significantly more than $100 million in 2020, there have been no signs that the team plans to rebuild less than two years after signing superstar Bryce Harper to a 13-year, $330 million contract.
Harper signed with the Phils in March 2019, a month after the team traded for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto is now a free agent, but both Middleton and MacPhail have called re-signing him a priority.