Phillies owner pushes back on Zack Wheeler rumor, says he wouldn’t trade pitcher for Babe Ruth


If public comments are any indication, the Philadelphia Phillies are not amused by a report from ESPN’s Buster Olney suggesting the club is willing to trade right-handed starter Zack Wheeler. Rather, the Phillies have spent Sunday pushing back against the report and its implications. John Middleton, the team owner, went so far as to tell Olney during a phone conversation that the executives from other clubs who had informed him about Wheeler’s availability were “lying.”

Middleton didn’t stop there, either. He told Olney that “if they offered me Babe Ruth, I wouldn’t trade him. I have authorized no one to have a conversation about trading him.” Middleton also name dropped Ted Williams and Mike Schmidt during that section of his rant.

The obvious (and snarky) retort to Middleton’s comments is that of course the Phillies would be right to reject trades that sent out Wheeler for Schmidt (in his 70s) as well as Ruth and Williams (both deceased). The more nuanced retort is that it makes sense for the Phillies to squash this as emphatically as possible, regardless of how much (or how little) truth there is to it — and to be fair to the Phillies, almost every team is willing to discuss their players in trades, even those who they don’t intend to move; it’s just part of the value-gauging process. 

Beyond that, the Phillies are in the midst of a search for a new top executive. Even if the Phillies intend for that hire to investigate a potential Wheeler trade, it doesn’t make sense to air that laundry publicly before the individual takes the job. Furthermore, it doesn’t help the Phillies extract their desired return if everyone knows they’re looking to dump a big contract. There’s also the matter of not wanting to irk Wheeler, Bryce Harper, or any of their other players.

Wheeler, 30, signed a five-year deal worth $118 million with the Phillies last winter. He had a quality first season in Philadelphia, earning down-ballot Cy Young Award consideration after posting a 2.92 ERA (156 ERA+) and a 3.31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 111 outings. 


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