Dan Wheeler Signs with Red Sox

According to ESPN, the Red Sox have reached an agreement with free agent and former Met reliever Dan Wheeler.

OK, it’s been over six years since Wheeler was a Met, but the stupidity in cutting him loose back then still stings me — not because I’m looking at it in hindsight, but because it seemed really, really dumb at the time.

To refresh your memory, it was late August of 2004 and the Mets were on their way to another September filled with meaningless games. The team was closer to last place than first; in fourth place, 12 behind the first-place Braves and six ahead of the last-place Expos. This was the year that team-player Mike Piazza was moved to first base without his permission; Jose Reyes was forced to run like an awkward chicken and moved to 2B to make room for Japanese superstar Kaz Matsui; Jason Phillips was supposed to be better than what we hope for Josh Thole ’11; Mike Cameron hit the lightest 30 homers in baseball history; the one-two punch of Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer was platooning in left field (and in pub parking lots); and Scott Kazmir was traded for a .500 pitcher with elbow problems who Rick Peterson could “fix” in “ten minutes”. On the bright side, it was also the year that David Wright made his debut — though, he was deemed too young to handle the “pressure” of batting higher than sixth in the lineup (it was fine to bat Gerald “Ice” Williams leadoff and fill the cleanup spot with Richard Hidalgo — they were “experienced” after all).

By mid-August, the lack talent on the field and intelligence at all levels of management was taking its toll. The firing of Art Howe would soon be announced — though he’d remain in his position of manager until the end of the year — and interim GM-turned-GM Jim Duquette had his feet to the coals as well. The bullpen was wearing down, and stocked with ageless wonders such as Mike Stanton, John Franco, David Weathers, and comeback kid Ricky Bottalico. Here and there, though, the Mets were auditioning some young arms, such as Matt Ginter, Orber Moreno, Pedro Feliciano, Heath Bell, and Dan Wheeler. Ginter was kind of like Dillon Gee, a longtime minor leaguer with so-so stuff but finding ways to win in a starting role. Moreno looked pretty impressive, and though both Bell and Wheeler struggled a bit, they both showed good velocity and fearlessness. I distinctly remember Wheeler being something of a protege under David Weathers, and seeing many similarities between the two. (In hindsight, Wheeler probably should have chosen John Franco as his guru, since Franco and Al Leiter seemed to be making player personnel decisions that year.) Another miserable season was winding down, but to me, the quartet of Moreno, Feliciano, Bell, and Wheeler suggested that the Mets might at least have a decent bullpen to look forward to in 2005.

But then in late August, the team DFA’d Wheeler to make room on the roster for Jae Seo — who showed some promise as a rookie in 2003 but found his way back to AAA after his velocity dropped in ’04 (he reportedly explained to the Mets that he purposely pitched at a decreased velocity in the early innings of starts, so as to have enough strength to get past the fifth inning). Mind you, I didn’t necessarily oppose the idea of promoting Seo, who had seemed to work things out in Norfolk. What didn’t make sense was adding him at the expense of Wheeler, who had been quickly proving himself to be a valuable asset for his hard, 94-MPH sinker, ability to throw strikes, and willingness to take the ball in any situation. Just a few of the players the Mets could have DFA’d instead included Bartolome Fortunato and Mike DeJean, neither of whom were pitching well nor had a future with the club, or any of a number of position players (Ice Williams is one in particular who stood out; Wilson Delgado another, though they needed him to play shortstop at the time).

Ah, those were the days … lucky for us, a new regime came into power a few months later — one that promised not to make bad decisions like that anymore, and would build the team around youth for long-term success.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. tasan December 18, 2010 at 9:03 pm
    still a two pitch relief pitcher. i wouldn’t worry too much about it…should be worried that they let scutaro go or traded wiggington…anyways…looking back trading kazmir wasn’t so bad of a deal…although we could have gotten back more….
    • Joe Janish December 18, 2010 at 11:39 pm
      Why would a reliever need more than two pitches?

      Anyway the point is that the Mets made many, many bonehead decisions that particular season, with the Wheeler trade (for Adam Seuss???) a symbol of their incompetence. But yeah you could lump Wigginton in there.

      As for Kazmir, it was a terrible deal then, and is still a terrible deal looking back on it. Kazmir’s value was far beyond Victor Zambrano’s at the time — especially considering that Zambrano was damaged goods. The idiocy of the deal was compounded by the fact that the Mets actually believed they had a chance at the postseason at the time of the deal.

      • dan December 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm
        Idiocy to be compounded by sentencing Heilman to the pen. and trying to find a starter to replace him ever since.
        Signing Perez for 3 years, 36 M was the crowning glory of that move.
        Could have won in 06, if Heilman started and Wheeler was in the pen.
        • Joe Janish December 19, 2010 at 10:57 pm
          Dan, that’s a great point, and one that never occurred to me. Because it’s true that Wheeler was about as good as Heilman in ’06 – and that was pretty damn good. Who knows, maybe it would’ve been Wheeler facing Molina in that fateful NLCS, and things could have turned out much differently.

          Though, I imagine EVERYTHING would have turned out differently if Heilman was a starter that year; for example, maybe Ollie Perez doesn’t get a postseason start.

  2. yourmom December 20, 2010 at 12:58 am
    pretty sure most relief pitchers have more than 2 pitches
  3. Metstheory22 December 22, 2010 at 11:27 am
    I did not like giving up on Wheeler or Bell at the time. Bell was a yo-yo during his time here. And the one year the bullpen saved us, they blew it up.
  4. micalpalyn December 23, 2010 at 12:13 pm
    1. The REAL stinger in the Zambrano trade was that Kazmir went from AA Binghampton TO THE MAJORS and promptly out dueled PEDRO and the RSOXX.

    2. The Wheeler trade WAS dumb. He was cheap effective and under control. Its not like we got Matt Joyce….

  5. micalpalyn December 23, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Here’s my Xmas rant:

    I like Sandy Alderson. Great hire. But his actions so far could have been done by joe Janish. Recently Mesmerized (?) noted that CB, Ollie, and Castillo (et al) will be off the books next Oct and free up 55M.

    55M? Not 80M. So Where is the creativity…the audacious Sandy?

    1. Trading reyes has been rumored. Fine. Replace Reyes with Tejada, even bring in Omar Vizquel, (decent aged retiring SS ), as stop gap.

    2. Trade DW. Sorry but the reign of Sandy can open with IKE as the new figure head…with DW (and his 12M) traded in a BLOCKBUSTER, for prized prospects or ML young pitching. Imagine DW to Boston….I want their top 3 prospects back, plus DiceK. PLUS that opens 3rd base for a FA, Zach Lutz/ Danny Murphy or Nick Evans. Plus DW can be packaged WITH Ollie or Castillo’s baggage. I’m not saying DO THIS, but it is something we need to entertain. PLUS trading DW still leaves Santana, Reyes, Ike and more. Minnesota trade stars annually and replace them….plus i think there might be an Evan Longoria in the draft next yr.

    There are things that can be done…right now we are NOT rebuilding…nor retooling …just..apathetic.

    Just saying….This team COULD be made competitive next yr.

    • Joe Janish December 24, 2010 at 5:32 pm
      I would say the entire 25-man roster, for the next 2-3 years at minimum, will be one big stopgap.

      The idea that the Mets can build a championship team in less than 5 years is nonsense. They either build on what they have right now and try to win 2011 / 2012, or it’s a very long-term process, because there is ZILCH coming from the farm other than hopes and wishes for Mejia and Flores — both of whom are longshots. But they’ve already decided to throw away ’11 and if they don’t re-sign we can figure out what’s happening.