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Rumor: Twins have interest in signing Zack Wheeler

Zack Wheeler

Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg may be the headliners of this year’s free-agent starting pitching group, but Zack Wheeler might have the biggest market out of all three.

The Chicago White Sox have already been rumored to be pursuing Wheeler after they signed catcher Yasmani Grandal, and now the Minnesota Twins are ramping up their interest in the right-hander, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network:

Minnesota is in high demand for starting pitching given that a number of guys from last year’s rotation — Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda and Martin Perez — are all free agents. Jake Odorizzi accepted the qualifying offer to return to Minnesota, and the Twins could convert guys like Brusdar Graterol and Randy Dobnak into starters, but they still need high-end guys.

The Twins were exposed for their lack of starting depth in their ALDS loss against the New York Yankees, and Wheeler projects as a frontline guy with ace potential.

Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts last season, but his FIP values in the last two years suggest that he has been better than the numbers on the surface. Wheeler has also increased his strikeout rate while slashing free passes in each of the last two seasons.

The 29-year-old also pitches to soft contact. He ranked in the top 4 percent of the league in terms of average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage in 2018, according to Baseball Savant. Wheeler dominates with his fastball-slider combination, and he also has a plus changeup that he flashes against left-handers.

Minnesota has the need and the payroll to go after Wheeler. The White Sox also want him badly. Expect a potential bidding war.