The Astros traded reliever and setup man extraordinaire Dan "Wheels" Wheeler to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for infielder Ty "Wiggy" Wigginton on Saturday. The move was lamented by fans on both sides as the Astros fans saw the loss of one of the best setup men in the National League and the Tampa fans bade farewell to a fan favorite.
To make room for Wigginton, the Astros designated Morgan Ensberg for assignment. They have 10 days to trade him or he becomes a free agent with the Astros paying his $4.25 million salary. They have said they will not ask him to be reassinged to AAA Round Rock. In a corresponding move to Ensberg’s DFA, the Astros recalled lefty reliever Mark McLemore from AAA Round Rock on Sunday.
Wigginton is an upgrade over the 2007 version of Morgan Ensberg, but he isn’t a good defensive player at the hot corner. He is an utility infielder who split time at 2nd and 3rd this year for the Devil Rays. Wigginton’s defense at 2nd base is better and he may be an insurance policy for the Astros should Burke fail miserably at the position next year and they cannot re-sign Mark Loretta.
The move to trade for Wiggy leaves question marks regarding the future of both Mike Lamb and Mark Loretta who are free agents after this season. Optimally, the Astros would be able to re-sign both Lamb and Loretta. Lamb is fabulous off the bench but given everyday playing time, he tends to go into slumps. His defense is about the same as Wigginton’s, so defensively, there’s no upgrade at the position. Offensively, Lamb in his platoon role has better numbers; however, his numbers against left-handed pitching aren’t good. Wigginton, on the other hand, has hit equally well against left-handed and right-handed pitching.
Losing Wheeler is more of an immediate issue because the Astros lost a good setup man. This deal makes sense for the long term if the Astros aren’t done dealing yet and they go out and get a starter for either Mark Loretta or Mike Lamb. The only other way this deal makes any sense is if they are going to put Brandon Backe in the bullpen for the rest of the year and next year put Fernando Nieve as a setup guy. Nieve was the closer for the Round Rock Express before having season-ending Tommy John surgery. Backe did say on Sunday that he is almost back to normal and is feeling really good. He was in uniform tossing balls in the Astros outfield Sunday.
Wigginton is said to be a "lunch pail", hard-nosed, "charlie hustle" type of player in the mold of a Craig Biggio. Hopefully he will live up to the reputation he has garnered in Tampa Bay and be a contributor and fan favorite in Houston. If he does, the Astros will have done well. However, he will have to live up to the lofty expectations of Astros fans who are used to seeing their team go to the playoffs more years than not. Giving up Wheeler for Wigginton has not set well with many Astros fans particularly disappointed with the Jason Jennings trade.
So welcome to Houston Ty Wigginton. Hopefully you will have a great career here.