The Reds had a longstanding interest in Zack Wheeler as both a trade target and then when the righty entered free agency in the 2019-20 offseason. Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer recently revisited that free agent pursuit, which ended when the Phillies signed Wheeler to a five-year, $118MM contract. According to Nightengale, the Reds were also willing to spend beyond $100MM to sign Wheeler, but they may have been undone by geography more than just dollars. Wheeler prioritized staying on the East Coast and closer to his wife’s home state of New Jersey, giving the Phils the edge over both the Reds and the White Sox (who reportedly offered more than $118MM).
Needless to say, signing Wheeler would’ve changed the entire trajectory of recent Reds history, not to mention the Phillies’ last three seasons and their current berth in the 2022 World Series. As Nightengale notes, the Reds went on to sign Nick Castellanos (for $64MM over four years) and Shogo Akiyama ($21MM over three years) after Wheeler left the market, and it isn’t known if either of those deals could’ve or would’ve still happened if Cincinnati had made its big investment in Wheeler’s contract.
More from around the baseball world…
- Christopher Morel had a solid rookie season, hitting .235/.308/.433 with 16 home runs over 425 plate appearances for the Cubs. Beyond his contributions at the plate, Morel also started games as a second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, center fielder, and left fielder. ‘There’s not many guys in the big leagues that can do what he does, the consistency he’s shown at times in each position,’’ Cubs assistant coach Jonathan Mota told Maddie Lee of the Chicago-Sun Times. A super-utility role would make Morel a valuable commodity on the roster, and both Morel and the Cubs seem committed to continuing his prep work at multiple positions going forward.
- Tampa-area businessman Darryl Shaw recently bought 25 acres of waterfront land in the Ybor City neighborhood, and as John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times explains, Shaw tried in the past to work with the Rays in other ventures in the Ybor area. Shaw’s new land purchase might therefore revive the idea of a new Rays ballpark in downtown Tampa, though Romano notes that this could be a long shot for a variety of reasons, including a lack of committed civic funding and the Rays’ increased interest in a new park (and accompanying “baseball village” infrastructure) built on the grounds of Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Any number of proposals involving Tampa, St. Pete, and even Montreal have been floated over the years as the Rays look for a new home, and it remains to be seen if any answer can be found before the club’s lease at the Trop expires after the 2027 season. Rays team president Matt Silverman said that “city and county officials on both sides of the bay seem to appreciate the value of baseball and are focused on finding a solution. The discussions are going on simultaneously in a parallel, non-competitive, non-adversarial way. Everyone understands time is of the essence.”