Astros: Zack Wheeler likely priced out of team’s range

Free agent Zack Wheeler could command more money than the Astros can afford.

It’s no secret the Astros are looking for starting rotation help this offseason with the departures of Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley and the non-tendering of Aaron Sanchez. A few weeks ago, I noted that Zack Wheeler would be a good fit for the team, but it appears his market has moved out of their range.

Ken Rosenthal reported that Wheeler has already received one offer of at least $100 million, so it’s likely he will get that much or more when he finally signs a contract. It’s possible that could come soon, as Jon Heyman notes he could even sign before the Winter Meetings begin.

Admittedly, the prospect of the Astros signing Wheeler was a long shot at best. We’ve gone in depth as to the club’s limited luxury tax space, so adding a pitcher on a contract that pays $20 million or more annually would be highly difficult to do.

This also makes a reunion with Cole unlikely, though owner Jim Crane has said the team plans to make a run at Cole nonetheless. Still, signing Cole or Wheeler would be virtually impossible without trading either George Springer or Zack Greinke.

Bargain Shopping

In all likelihood, the Astros will be looking for rotation help in more cost effective ways. They’re not in a position to spend big in free agency, so they’ll need to identify players they think can help the team without breaking the bank.

The starting pitching market hasn’t been moving as quickly as the market for relievers, but that could change with a Wheeler signing. He could be the first big domino to fall, so the front office will need to keep tabs on the players they’ve targeted.

But the bottom line for fans is to not expect a big ticket addition to the starting rotation. It’s possible that could happen next year, but for now the team simply doesn’t have the tax room to add another large contract to the books.

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