Chicago Cubs should target Zack Wheeler in free agency

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Surrounded by aces, Wheeler made a name for himself

Wheeler made his debut in 2013 with the New York Mets and immediately made an impact pitching to a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts. He posted a 3.55 FIP and 187 strikeouts in 32 starts in 2014 and was looking very promising. Then in March of 2015 he had Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL and missed the entire season. In 2016 he tried to comeback but suffered a mild flexor strain during his rehab and missed all of that season as well.

He finally returned in 2017 and the past several season still showed that he can pitch. In 2019 he pitched a career-high 195 1/3 innings (31 starts) and pitched to a 3.96 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 1.3 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and posted a 4.7 fWAR. The difference in FIP and ERA shows he was better than the peripherals indicate.  In 2018, he posted a career-low 3.25 FIP and 3.31 ERA in 182 1/3 innings, so this past year does not exactly scream “fluke”.

Wheeler might not be Nolan Ryan, but he can miss bats. He regularly can sit in the upper-90s on the fastball while mixing in a hard slider, curve and change-up which he used more of last year. He has a number of times hit 99 MPH on the gun on the fastball and the pitch velocity on that fastball in 2019 was the highest of his career.

His stuff has looked as good as it has since going under the knife and at 29 still has gas in the tank.