Despite signing former New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract earlier in the week, the Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly aiming even higher in free agency, as they may have their sights on three of the biggest available names on the market, including 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg.
In a tweet posted on Friday, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman wrote that the Phillies are targeting two top-tier free-agent pitchers — Strasburg and Gerrit Cole — though they appear to be “especially interested” in the former at this point. While Heyman added that it’s possible Philadelphia’s interest in Strasburg may have gone down a bit following the addition of Wheeler, he stressed that the team is “going big again,” but taking a low-key approach. He concluded by citing USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale, who also linked the Phillies to another member of this year’s World Series-winning Washington Nationals team, third baseman Anthony Rendon.
Heyman’s latest update on Strasburg came two days after he tweeted that Philadelphia was considering the 31-year-old hurler, despite how the Nationals remained the favorites to sign him and retain his services, as previously reported by PhillyVoice. According to the publication, the Phillies are working on improving their pitching rotation in the offseason because their “struggles on the mound” were arguably the main reason they failed to make the playoffs in the 2019 season.
“If the team is willing to spend north of $100 million on Wheeler, they should be willing to spend on Strasburg, who is more than just a solid middle of the rotation starter — he is a Cy Young caliber hurler,” PhillyVoice added.
Given how the Nationals are seemingly determined to re-sign Strasburg and the interest former Houston Astros pitcher Cole has received from the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels, CBS Sports speculated that the Phillies might not be able to complement Wheeler’s acquisition by adding an even more highly-regarded pitcher in free agency. Instead, the outlet wrote that Rendon appears to be the likeliest of the three rumored targets to sign with Philadelphia, even if it’s far from guaranteed due to how other organizations, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers, are reportedly hoping to sign the third baseman.
The first overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, Strasburg has played his entire major league career with the Nationals. In the 2019 campaign, he finished the regular season with an 18-6 win-loss record, a 3.32 ERA, and 251 strikeouts in 209 innings pitched, according to Baseball-Reference.