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Following a report that the Phillies informed teams they were open to offers for starting pitcher Zack Wheeler because they were in a financial bind, managing general partner John Middleton vehemently refuted the notion.
“If they offered me Babe Ruth, I wouldn’t trade him,” Middleton told ESPN, adding the names of Ted Williams and Mike Schmidt to stress the point. “I have authorized no one to have a conversation about trading him.”
ESPN had reported earlier Sunday that high-ranking executives from other MLB teams said Philadelphia made it known that its second-highest-paid player was available.
“They’re lying to you,” Middleton said, per ESPN.
Wheeler, who is only one year into the five-year, $118 million deal he signed last winter, performed well for the Phillies during the shortened 2020 season after he declined a qualifying offer from the Mets and became a free agent.
But like that of many MLB teams, Philadelphia’s financial landscape has changed drastically because of the coronavirus pandemic. Bryce Harper is the team’s highest-paid player, but there hasn’t been any indication that the Phillies would look to deal him, according to ESPN.
The 30-year-old Wheeler posted a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts, giving the Phillies’ rotation a much needed boost after the team’s disappointing 81-81 season in 2019.
After last season — when the Phillies finished 28-32 — was played without fans in the stands, the Phillies had multiple front-office layoffs, reportedly letting go 80 employees. General manager Matt Klentak was demoted in October and the organization has been searching for someone to oversee the baseball operations department since.
The Phillies haven’t been in the playoffs since 2011, their last winning season.