It’s obvious who every Yankees fan wants the Bombers to sign: Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. Heck, Giancarlo Stanton said he would want both of the flamethrowers in pinstripes. However, the Yankees haven’t made a huge splash for a free agent arm like these two since CC Sabathia in 2009. If the trend continues, they’ll miss out on the game-changing pitchers. Instead, they might turn to Zack Wheeler, who is exceptional on the mound and would be a great signing, but the Yankees shouldn’t be satisfied with just him.
If Brian Cashman and his team were able to reel in Cole or Strasburg, they could be content with one of them. They are elite level arms who are highly regarded throughout the entire league. If they were to bring in just Wheeler, he wouldn’t be enough to help change the outlook of the starting rotation heading into 2020 like the other two would.
Wheeler has been with the Mets since his debut in 2013. He owns a career 3.77 ERA over 749.1 innings, hurling over 100 frames in four out of his five seasons. The 29-year-old right-hander is coming off one of the best performances in his six-year career. He posted a 4.7 fWAR, a 3.48 FIP, and a career-high in strikeouts with 195. To put those numbers into perspective, James Paxton’s 3.5 fWAR was the highest registered out of any Yankee starter, along with his 186 Ks and 3.86 FIP. Now that those numbers have been laid out, it may be fair to say that Wheeler would have been the ace of the 2019 staff for the Yanks, but it’s definitely close. Although, Wheeler is almost two years younger than Paxton.
The potential acquisition of Zack Wheeler would be a nice pickup for the Yankees, but it wouldn’t give New York the push it needs to go from a good rotation to an elite one. Cole or Strasburg would certainly get them to the next level, but they will carry a heavy price tag with them. Only bringing in Wheeler to bolster the starting rotation would most likely not be enough to topple other top contenders, especially if those same contenders were to win the Cole/Strasburg sweepstakes.
If the Yankees do not sway either ace to sign with them, they could sign Wheeler and pair him with a guy like Madison Bumgarner or even Cy Young finalist Hyun-Jin Ryu to make up for their loss. Even Dallas Keuchel isn’t a bad option, but he’d be more of their third-best pitcher than one that’s at the top of the rotation.
One thing we know for sure is that the Yankees do have interest in Wheeler. If we go back to late July around the trade deadline, the Yanks were reported to have interest in the righty, but they couldn’t come to terms with their crosstown rival. If they were to strike a deal to bring him to the other side of New York, he should be a great fit. However, he may not be enough to propel the Bombers to championship No. 28.