Add the Reds to the many teams interested in coveted free-agent right-hander Zack Wheeler, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Wheeler’s longtime team, the Mets, as well as the White Sox, Twins, Angels, Padres, Yankees and Blue Jays are also among the clubs that have been connected to him early this offseason.
Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams indicated last month the Reds would be active in free agency, though expectations were the team’s focus would be on the offensive side. After all, the Reds finished last season 25th in the majors in both runs and wRC+, yet there’s already plenty of talent in their rotation. The team currently boasts Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani as locks for its starting staff next year. That said, signing Wheeler would perhaps give Cincinnati an elite rotation on paper, and now that catcher Yasmani Grandal (a target for the Reds who signed with the White Sox on Thursday) is off the board, an agent told Rosenthal the club may be prepared to redirect a significant portion of its available funds to Wheeler.
The 29-year-old Wheeler would immediately become one of the biggest signings in Reds history, with MLBTR predicting he’ll land a $100MM deal over a half-decade this offseason. Wheeler would give the Reds yet another front-of-the-rotation type, having pitched to a 3.96 ERA/3.48 FIP with 8.98 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 across a career-high 195 1/3 innings in 2019. That output was enough to convince the Mets to hit the flamethrowing Wheeler with a $17.8MM qualifying offer, which he rejected. Because he’s a QO recipient, signing Wheeler would cost the Reds their third-highest pick in 2020. That won’t scare Cincy off, though, as Williams said last week the team will consider signing players who received a QO.