The Devil Rays acquired righthander Dan Wheeler from the Astros for second baseman Ty Wigginton and cash considerations, marking the fourth reliever Tampa Bay added in trade on July 28.
The Big Leaguers
An original pick (34th round) of the Devil Rays in their first-ever draft in 1996, Wheeler emerged as a key reliever only after joining the Astros in 2004–and that was after he’d been discarded by the Braves and Mets. Wheeler played a key role in two Houston playoff teams in 2004 and 2005, and has functioned at times as Brad Lidge’s replacement at closer. Wheeler, 29, pitches in the low- to mid-90s and offers a plus splitter as his strikeout pitch.
After being given up for dead by the Pirates in December 2005, Wigginton, who was drafted as a second baseman by the Mets in 1998 (17th round), latched on with the Devil Rays and gave them his two finest seasons. Wigginton hit .275/.330/.498 with 24 homers for TampaBay in 2006, and was batting .275/.329/.458 with 16 bombs at the time of the trade. But the numbers alone don’t comprise the sum of his value. The 29-year-old Wigginton offers the ability to play first, second or third base as well as the outfield corners, making him a versatile offensive weapon.
Like Scott Linebrink, whom the Brewers acquired last week, Wheeler was one of the NL’s very best set-up men from 2004-2006, but had struggled through the season’s first four months. He gives TampaBay‘s beleaguered bullpen a huge lift, though, just as Wigginton fills a vital role for the Astros’ flagging offense. Houston has gotten shockingly little from third baseman Morgan Ensberg this season, and the club has indicated that it envisions Wigginton as a regular at the hot corner.