Houston Astros: Zack Wheeler will morph into an All-Star if he joins team

Free agent pitcher Zack Wheeler who is being pursued by the Houston Astros (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Free agent pitcher Zack Wheeler who is being pursued by the Houston Astros (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros still have a notable interest in Zack Wheeler, if he signs, he’s definitely going be an All-Star for the first time in his career. Why?

The Houston Astros are off the races as the offseason is officially underway with the GM Meetings taking place in Scottsdale, Ariz. this week. The meetings started Monday and will end tomorrow.  Jeff Luhnow and his staff will be on hand to hopefully get some things accomplished in terms of governance as well as try to talk with his counterparts to see if a deal can put together to beef up their starting pitching rotation.

The need for pitching is the direst for the Houston Astros as the uncertainty of Gerrit Cole being able to re-sign with the team is likely more imminent.  Although Houston Astros‘ owner Jim Crane has publicly admitted that he’d like to make a run for Cole’s services, we all know in our hearts that our team is likely going to be outpriced in a market that will offer him a multi-year, multi-million deal in his free agency.

Free agency is such a delicate time for those who are in it because, in baseball, it’s likely that a player won’t get there until their late 20s/early 30s if a multi-year agreement is not put together by then.  With teams milking every bit of cheap contracts to stay lean, it’s the prudent way of doing business and I’m sure Cole is leaning toward cashing-in to the highest bidder.

Cole had the best season of his career and it’s likely going to warrant him winning AL Cy Young Award honors, to which the winner will be announced later today.  He’s heavy competition with other finalists in Justin Verlander as well as former Astro Charlie Morton, who had an incredible season with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Whatever decision is made, these men all truly had notable campaigns and the nomination is just as important as the guy that will actually be winning the award.

But aside from the flattery, the Houston Astros are likely going to have to start to prepare for life without Cole and they’ve already got a starting pitcher in their sights but the interest is certainly not new.

MLB Insider Jon Heyman reported that the Houston Astros have met with Zack Wheeler‘s representation earlier this week and they’re going to make a strong run at his services.  The cost of Wheeler’s arm is going to be a lot less than Cole’s so it’s quite understandable they’re going this route.

Plus Cole is repped by Scott Boras, who is shrewd negotiator when it comes to contracts so while they’re working on that, it doesn’t help to have a Plan B or C or possibly D just in case either of latter doesn’t work out.

It remains to be seen if Cole is a top priority or if the communication is mutual as they’ve already tagged Cole with the $17.8M qualifying offer for 2020 — to which he’ll decline — to ensure they get the highest compensation of a draft pick possible if he walks away from the team.

The Houston Astros had expressed interest in Wheeler before this past trade deadline — I had written about it way back when — but they decided to make a deal for Zack Greinke instead to which, for all intent and purposes, has been a good pickup by the franchise, especially with the clutch way he pitched in Game 7 of the World Series.

But Greinke needs reinforcements and Wheeler could be that guy.

I’m positive Wheeler would like to forget his 2019 campaign that saw him soar to unfortunate heights in hits allowed (196) and home runs per nine innings (1.014).  He was ranked 2nd and 8th respectively in those stats but I think in the long run it won’t affect him if he were to become a member of this ballclub.

In the same cut, Wheeler can certainly get to the 200-inning plateau quite easily, with him pitching 195.3 of those last season. ranked 9th among NL pitchers.  His 3.48 FIP was also ranked 9th among his brethren so it to show how valuable of a weapon he’d be if the Houston Astros were able to get their hands on him.

He’s a flame-thrower, with most of his pitches sitting in the low 90s but he can get his four-seamer

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up to the century-mark quite easily.  It’s his calling card and he also has slider, curve and change up in his repertoire if the situation warrants which would certainly help in generating the groundballs needed for outs.

But I’ll take this a step further, if Brent Strom can get his hands on Wheeler, I project that he’ll be an All-Star for the first time in his career and will partake in the Midsummer Classic come next July.  That’s all Strom does — transform what the Houston Astros would categorize as reclamation projects and help them be their best selves.

Look at Morton, Cole, even Mike Fiers, the list goes on and on.  Strom transmogrifies careers and Wheeler’s will be none the exception.

Just wait and see as I hope the Houston Astros are able to secure him if Cole doesn’t return, which as I said previously, it’s likely.

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We’ll have to see as many other teams including the New York Mets, are in hot pursuit of Wheeler — go Houston Astros!

Wheeler, 29, posted an 11-8 record, 3.96 ERA while tossing 195 strikeouts to 86 earned runs — a career-high in ERs — and a 1.26 WHIP through 31 starts in 2019.