If the Phillies don't re-sign Zack Wheeler, these 5 players could replace him

If the Philadelphia Phillies can't agree to terms with Zack Wheeler, several appealing pitchers could replace him.

Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies
Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages
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3. Merrill Kelly

Merrill Kelly was a stone-cold killer en route to the Arizona Diamondbacks' NLCS victory and World Series appearance. He is 36 years old, so age is a factor the Phillies need to consider, but Kelly could serve as the perfect rotational bridge. He would presumably sign a short-term deal, for maybe two or three years, to finish out his prime in Philadelphia. That's enough time for Andrew Painter and other top prospects to develop into viable replacements.

Despite his age, Kelly has mounted three straight productive, healthy campaigns. He made 30 starts last season, posting a 12-8 record with a 3.29 ERA and 1.193 WHIP. His 187 strikeouts in 177.2 innings pitched stands out in a positive light. Kelly still encourages a ton of missed swings despite his low velocity, boasting a chase percentage (32.9) in the 88th percentile. He works the zone with precision.

Kelly finished the 2023 postseason with a 3-1 record in four starts and a 2.25 ERA. The Phillies got a first-hand look at his stuff in the NLCS. Kelly brings a level of poise and postseason experience Philadelphia would surely appreciate. Before he made the MLB leap in 2019, Kelly won the Korean Series — the KBO equivalent of the World Series. He took a unique pathway to MLB stardom, but Kelly has solidified his reputation as a bankable second ace on a contender.

He wouldn't present the same upside as other options on the board, but Kelly would also demand less of a commitment. If the Phillies swing for a proper Cy Young candidate, the costs will be much higher, as will the financial risk if the deal ultimately blows up.