Hot Stove Burning: Wheeler and Hamels Signed

It’s so nice to have a winter that actually includes substantial movement before the new year. After a painfully slow last two years, we’ve been running a toasty hot stove this year and the Winter Meetings haven’t even kicked off yet (they start Sunday!).

Zack Wheeler signed by Philadelphia (5 years/$118 million dollars)

This is one of those interesting moves that causes a big splash on the national landscape, especially being a high-profile arm joining a new team in the same division, but it’s not quite as impactful in the fantasy realm. It’s a big deal for sure, but Wheeler’s fantasy outlook for 2020 isn’t greatly altered by the move. He moves to a worse park but gets a markedly better defense supporting him. Neither bullpen was particularly good in 2019 and I actually expect both to improve in 2020, so let’s call that neutral.

Health issues looked like they might completely ruin Wheeler for a time there as he missed all of 2015-16 and then half of 2017 after 5.21 ERA through July. Since then, he has been a bit of a workhorse with back-to-back big seasons of 182.3 and 195.3 innings, surging in the second half of both (1.68 ERA in 2H 2018; 2.83 in 2H 2019). He was an Honorable Mention in my very early SP rankings from mid-August, but now he’s approaching my top-30 (sitting right in that 30-35 range during my last mock draft).

After two straight healthy seasons, I think his injury risk is normal and in line with the majority of pitchers. He’s a perfect #2 starter but could also front a rotation for a team that wants to live in the middle tiers and not select their first arm until the 8th or 9th round of a 15-teamer.

Cole Hamels signed by Atlanta (1 year/$18 million dollars)

Hamels carried a 2.98 ERA through June before an oblique injury cost him the month of July. While his skills weren’t quite on par with such a strong ERA, he was undoubtedly pitching well with a 24% K, 8% BB, and 3.59 FIP. His changeup was still elite and will once again provide a strong foundation for him in 2020. Three particularly bad starts tanked his numbers upon returning, allowing 17 ER in 8.3 innings at CIN, at PHI, and MIL. He had a 2.67 in the other seven starts, but those three duds saddled him with a 5.79 mark in 42 innings spanning all 10 starts.

The move to Atlanta is neutral at worst and likely a net benefit given the improvements they’ve made to their bullpen already this offseason. I’m heartened by the fact that Hamels suffered a non-arm injury and with an offseason to recover, he shouldn’t have any lingering effects from the oblique. The general fantasy community doesn’t seem to share my optimism, though, as he’s going around pick-300 in early NFBC drafts, making him the 116th pitcher off the board (RPs included).

I’m easily buying at that price and even if it creeps up, the community’s persistent aversion to rostering age will keep it from shooting too high as I expect to stabilize the backend of my rotations with several Hamels shares. At worst I’m getting another 3.81 ERA/1.39 WHIP, likely with more innings than the 141.7 from 2019, while there is legitimate upside for something around 190 innings of a 3.50 ERA/1.20 WHIP by way of his hit and walk rates trickling down and better defense cashing his batted balls into more outs.

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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I really like the Hamels signing (despite not so much at first). His floor seems to be extremely low, considering he has never had a season below the 1.7 WAR he posted in ’17. He also remains strong late in outings. His 3rd TTO numbers look great (especially compared to Keuchel’s in 2019).

Basically he’s a less durable version of his early 2010s self, which is still awesome as the Braves don’t need 200 innings from Hamels. I expect him to produce a solid 150-160 innings in 2020 (2-2.5 WAR) and giving the Braves an excellent source of vet presents. It’s wild… Hamels has been worth roughly twice as much as Julio Teheran since 2017. The guy can still pitch very well.