Wheeler hasn't decided whether he'll rejoin the Phillies following the upcoming birth of his child, Matt Gelb of The Athletic reports. The 30-year-old is expected to miss at least two starts while on paternity leave due to the expanded protocols for COVID-19, but he could also end up opting out of the remainder of the season entirely. Wheeler reported to summer training this week and said he currently feels comfortable about the situation, but he also said it's something he's regularly thinking about with his wife Dominque due toward the end of July. He may not be available for the beginning of the season depending when she goes into labor, so there's a chance he wouldn't see the field at all in 2020 if he declines to return. For the time being, Wheeler will continue preparing for the start of the season.
Wheeler could miss time early in the season as his wife is due to give birth to the couple's first child around Opening Day, Matt Gelb of The Athletic reports. How exactly players will handle fatherhood is one of many questions that come with resuming the season in the middle of a pandemic. In a typical season, players usually miss roughly three days for paternity leave, but the upcoming season will of course be far from typical and may require different protocols. The Phillies' big offseason acquisition could wind up not missing a single start, but if he has to go through some sort of quarantine before returning to the club, he could miss nearly a quarter of the shortened season.
Wheeler finished his Grapefruit League campaign with a 5.40 ERA and a 9:3 K:BB in 8.1 innings. Small-sample ERAs don't mean much, and they shouldn't be too worrying in Wheeler's case. He posted spring ERAs of 8.10 and 4.80 in 2018 and 2019, respectively, but finished the regular season with ERAs of 3.31 and 3.96. He'll slot in as the Phillies No. 2 starter behind Aaron Nola this season.
Wheeler signed a five year, $118 million deal with the Phillies on Wednesday, Marc Carig of The Athletic reports. Wheeler will remain in the NL East, where he spent the first five seasons of his big-league career for the Mets. After an injury-filled start to his career, Wheeler has emerged as a solid starter over the last two seasons, averaging 30 starts per season while posting a 3.65 ERA and a 3.37 WHIP. He'll slot in next to Aaron Nola at the top of the Phillies' rotation.
Wheeler rejected his qualifying offer from the Mets on Thursday, making him a free agent, Jeff Passan of ESPN.com reports. Despite entering a free-agent pool that includes other starting pitchers like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, Wheeler is expected to have an appealing market of his own. The right-hander posted a 1.26 WHIP with a career-high 195 strikeouts in 2019. The Mets will be able to receive draft-pick compensation if Wheeler signs elsewhere, but that isn't expected to have a significant impact on his value.
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