Estimating the Value of Contract Extensions: Zack Wheeler

In this investigation, we will attempt to approximate the salary (dependent on the length of the deal) the Mets will offer impending free agent Zack Wheeler (in their efforts to extend him) through encompassing age decline and the average cost / 1 WAR on the FA market.

In Neil Weinberg’s Beginner’s Guide To Aging Curves, he explains that…

“a basic rule of thumb is that once a player gets to 30, you sort of expect them to lose about 0.5 WAR per year of value due to aging. Some players will age better or worse, but that’s an average estimate”.

Another one of his articles analyzed the price teams pay per 1 WAR on the FA market. Neil Weinberg asserts that…

$/WAR is basically a measurement of how much teams are paying for players on the free agent market according to how many wins they will add over replacement level players. Right now, we think teams are paying about $8 million per every WAR they add to their roster. For example, a 2 WAR player signed for three years would theoretically provide his team with 6 WAR, so a team might want to pay him anything up to $48 million. If the team pays less than $8 million for each expected WAR, we call this a “good deal” and if they pay more, we say they “overpaid.”

Wheeler will presumably insist on pay comparable (relatively speaking) to what he could have potentially gotten had he tested the FA market. 

Photo: N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

28-year-old starting pitcher Zack Wheeler is due to hit free agency after this season (2019). After missing consecutive seasons due to injury, Wheeler struggled in his first year back from TJ in 2017. His ERA was north of 5, and walks (over 4 / 9 IP) and HRs were an issue (over 1.5 HR/9). Overcoming adversity, Wheeler was fantastic in 2018, putting up great numbers across board and getting better and better as the season went on…

Pre-All-Star Break:

  • IP: 107.1
  • H: 104
  • WHIP: 1.34
  • BB/9: 3.35
  • K/9: 8.89
  • ERA: 4.44
  • FB velocity: 96.3 mph


  • IP: 82.2
  • H: 54
  • WHIP: 0.86
  • BB/9: 1.85
  • K/9: 8.71
  • ERA: 1.96
  • FB velocity: 97.1 mph

The Mets and deGrom have made little to no progress on a contract extension, which increases the likelihood that they subsequently pursue a long-term deal with Wheeler. It will presumably be much easier to extend Wheeler considering he has spent so much time on the IL (injured listed) the past few years. Here is what it could cost to extend Wheeler:

For the purpose of this investigation, let’s assume Wheeler loses 0.5 WAR annually starting in 2020 and that the cost per 1 WAR is ~$8 million…

2020 (age 30 season): 2.3 WAR [2.8 WAR (FanGraphs’ Depth Charts projection for 2018) – 0.5 = 2.3]; $18.4 million

2021: 1.8 WAR; $14.4 million

2022 (age 32 season): 1.3 WAR; $10.4 million

2023: 0.8 WAR; $6.8 million

Wheeler contract possibilities:

  • 1 yr, $18.4 million
  • 2 yr, $32.8 million
  • 3 yr, $43.2 million
  • 4 yr, $50 million

Prediction: 4 yr, $50 million

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