The White Sox made the biggest splash of the young free agency season on Thursday, signing the best catcher available, Yasmani Grandal, to a long-term contract. The four-year, $73MM guarantee the White Sox handed Grandal stands as the largest deal in franchise history, but it might not be long before the team doles out an even richer pact. The White Sox remain among those after free-agent right-hander Zack Wheeler, per reports from Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Jon Morosi of MLB.com (video link) and Andy Martino of SNY. They first showed interest in Wheeler well before signing Grandal.
If MLBTR’s five-year, $100MM prediction proves accurate, Wheeler could become the first nine-figure player in White Sox history. The longtime Met and former Tommy John surgery patient made a case for that type of payday during the previous two seasons with 8.9 fWAR over 377 2/3 innings, thereby putting three straight injury-ruined years behind him. Along the way, Wheeler recorded a terrific 3.65 ERA/3.37 FIP with 8.91 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 and averaged a blazing 96.8 mph on his four-seam fastball.
Now, should Wheeler end up on the South Side of Chicago, he’d give the club at least two frontline-caliber starters from the get-go. Although 2019 was yet another dismal season in the standings for the White Sox, they did see Lucas Giolito emerge as a star atop their rotation. And Giolito’s hardly the lone promising starter on hand, as Chicago also boasts Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease. Meanwhile, Michael Kopech could factor into the club’s rotation from the outset of next season after missing 2018 because of a Tommy John procedure, and fellow TJ patient Carlos Rodon figures to return at some point in 2020.
Considering the 29-year-old Wheeler is the third-best starter on the open market, trailing only Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, there’s predictably substantial interest in him so far. The Angels, Padres and Twins are also among those who have been connected to him thus far. Anybody that signs Wheeler will have to surrender draft compensation, as he rejected a $17.8MM qualifying offer from the Mets a week ago. The White Sox and Angels would each give up their second-highest pick in 2020 and $500K of their international signing bonus pool, while the Padres and Twins would lose their third-highest selection.