Astros: Reviewing the Ty Wigginton for Dan Wheeler trade

ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 18: Third baseman Ty Wigginton of the Houston Astros looks to home plate for the pitch from his position in the field during the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas on May 18, 2008. The Astros defeated the Rangers 5-4. (Photo by John Williamson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 18: Third baseman Ty Wigginton of the Houston Astros looks to home plate for the pitch from his position in the field during the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas on May 18, 2008. The Astros defeated the Rangers 5-4. (Photo by John Williamson/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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We look back at the 2007 trade in which the Houston Astros swapped Dan Wheeler for Ty Wigginton.

The 2007 Houston Astros were one of the more disappointing teams we’ve had this century. A big offseason brought in Carlos Lee, Jason Jennings and Woody Williams, but only one of those players was worth anything. After narrowly missing the playoffs in 2006, the 2007 squad stumbled to just 73 wins and a fourth-place finish. But during the season, an interesting trade took place involving Ty Wigginton and Dan Wheeler.

On July 28, the Astros were looking to upgrade the offense and sent Wheeler, one of their top relievers over the previous three seasons, to Tampa Bay in exchange for Wigginton. This was the second straight year they made a July trade for a Devil Rays hitter, having acquired Aubrey Huff in 2006 in a disastrous trade.

This one actually worked out much better, though it didn’t help the team’s fortunes that year. But Wigginton wasn’t just a rental, so he was able to help the club the following year as well.

What the Astros Got

Wigginton was primarily a third baseman, but also played second base, first base and the corner outfield. He’d established a reputation as a slightly above-average hitter who wasn’t particularly gifted on defense or the bases, but at least brought some versatility to the table.

In 50 games following the trade in 2007, he hit .284/.342/.462 with 12 doubles, six homers and 18 RBIs. His 2008 season was arguably the best of his career as he slashed .285/.350/.526 with 23 homers and 58 RBIs in 111 games, setting career highs in batting average, slugging, OBP and OPS in a full season.

He left via free agency after 2008 and started a decline, never posting an OPS+ above 100 again. He gave the Astros 2.7 WAR in his season and a half in Houston.

What the Astros Gave Up

Wheeler was a reliable setup man after being acquired from the Mets in August 2004. He pitched to a 2.21 ERA in 71 appearances in 2005 and a 2.52 ERA in 75 appearances in 2006. But the 29-year-old was struggling in 2007 to the tune of a 5.07 ERA in 45 appearances at the time of the trade.

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He was no better down the stretch, but he rebounded to post ERAs of 3.12, 3.28 and 3.35 in the ensuing three seasons in Tampa. He was worth 2.7 WAR from 2008 through 2010 for the Rays after being worth 4.2 WAR for the Astros from 2005 to 2006.

The Final Verdict

From a strict on-field standpoint, the Astros got a total of 2.7 WAR from Wigginton, while the Rays got a total of 2.4 WAR from Wheeler, factoring in his 2007 struggles. Both Wheeler and Wigginton left their new teams via free agency, so there are no trade returns to consider.

Aside from Wheeler’s struggles down the stretch immediately following the trade, both teams got what they were looking for. The Astros got a solid, if unspectacular, contributor on offense for a year and a half. The Rays got a solid, if unspectacular, reliever for three and a half years.

Since the WAR totals are so close, I’d call the trade a wash. The players largely performed as expected in this rather simple trade, so it’s hard to say one team made out much better than the other.

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