Braves rival extends star pitcher to record-setting deal

One of the best potential 2025 free agents won't hit the free agent market after all.

Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day
Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies have extended their star pitcher Zack Wheeler to a three-year deal worth $42 million per season, according to Buster Olney of ESPN. The Georgia native was set to become a free agent after the 2024 season.

Wheeler has been excellent since signing his five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies in 2020. Among qualified starters, the 33-year-old has accumulated the most fWAR at 19.3, 1.4 WAR more than any other starter. He's pitched the fourth-most innings, behind only 2023 AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole, 2022 NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara, and teammate Aaron Nola.

With this extension, the Phillies keep the top part of their rotation together for the foreseeable future. Aaron Nola, a free agent the Braves pursued this offseason, returned to the Phillies on a seven-year deal.

How does Zack Wheeler's extension impact the Braves plans in 2025

This extension also means that one of the best (if not the best) starting pitchers off next year's free agent class, a class that also includes the Braves left-handed ace, Max Fried.

Wheeler could have been a potential target for the Braves next season, with both Charlie Morton and Max Fried entering the final year of their contracts this season. The righty grew up in Georgia and was a Braves fan as a child. Instead of seeing if there was a chance to play for his childhood team, Wheeler will likely finish his career only playing for the Braves' biggest rivals.

In addition to not getting the chance to add Wheeler, this could also potentially drive up the market price for Max Fried and lower the potential for the Braves to keep the lefty past the 2024 season.

Although Wheeler's deal is only three years, the average annual value (AAV) of $42 million will likely set the tone for aces like Fried, Corbin Burnes, and Shane Bieber as they try to secure high-value, long-term deals next offseason.

The Braves highest AAV on a multi-year deal is Austin Riley's 10-year, $212 million deal with an AAV of $21.2 million. If Fried is looking for an AAV closer to Wheeler's than Riley's, it's almost a guarantee this will be the ace's final season with the Braves.

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