UPDATE: Wigginton will be used as the primary third baseman; you have to expert Morgan Ensberg to be gone soon.
We expected both players to be traded, but not for each other. Today, the Astros traded 29 year-old reliever Dan Wheeler to the Devil Rays for 29 year-old supersub Ty Wigginton. By my count, Wheeler reaches free agency after the 2008 season and Wiggy after 2009.
Looking at the two most important metrics, strikeout and walk rate, Wheeler should return to form for Tampa Bay. His strikeout rate is up; his walks down. Wheeler does not allow many baserunners. Perhaps the reunion with former Astros pitching coach Jim Hickey will help Wheeler curb his gopheritis. Should the Rays trade Al Reyes, or perhaps even if they don’t, Wheeler is a strong candidate to assume closing duties for the team.
I’m seeing a lot of folks panning Tim Purpura for getting Wigginton for Wheeler. Personally I don’t think it’s too bad. The Astros will have holes at second and third base next year, and Wigginton can play either position based on which spot the Astros can fill otherwise. I’d like to see him at second base, where his bat would be above average. Could Purpura have done better, given the strong demand for relievers? If it was the Wheeler of years past, sure. But he has a 5.07 ERA this year.