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Wheeler, GM trade punches over right-hander’s Mets departure

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 6 days ago Deesha Thosar
Zack Wheeler wearing a white shirt © Matt Rourke

PORT ST. LUCIE — Brodie Van Wagenen channeled Omar Little from HBO’s hit TV show “The Wire” when he sent a message to Zack Wheeler on Friday. When you come at the king, you best not miss.

One day after Wheeler claimed he didn’t hear from the Mets before he signed as a free agent with the Phillies on a five-year, $118 million contract, Van Wagenen fired back with his version of the events that took place during that first week in December.

"I'm surprised and disappointed to hear Zack's comments,” Van Wagenen said. “From top to bottom, this organization gave him an opportunity to succeed in the big leagues. The help from our performance department combined with our coaches helped him parlay his two great half-seasons over the last five years into $118 million.

“We’re very happy with the rotation that we have and the players that we acquired — specifically Marcus Stroman, Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello — we feel like they give us a great chance to have a stable rotation that can compete with the rest of baseball.”

Wheeler had been in the Mets organization since 2011. He made at least 29 starts in three of the five seasons he pitched for the Amazin’s. The 29-year-old sustained injuries early in his career and pitched especially well in the second half of the 2018 and ‘19 seasons — which indicates why Van Wagenen said Wheeler’s “two great half-seasons” led to his premium offseason deal with the NL rival Phillies.

Van Wagenen said he reached out to Wheeler’s agent at Jet Sports Management “multiple times” over the course of that last week before he landed in Philadelphia. That contradicts Wheeler’s comments on Thursday.

The $17.8 million qualifying offer was the only public attempt the Mets made to keep Wheeler in Flushing. Since then, Van Wagenen has maintained that the Mets were not prepared to give Wheeler the contract he ended up receiving from the Phillies.

“I’m proud of what Zack did for this organization,” Van Wagenen said. “He was a good pitcher, we wanted to retain him and we talked to his agent at length throughout — leading up to the trade deadline and throughout the offseason — and it became clear he was going to get more money than we were prepared to give him.

“Good for him. We’re happy for him, we wish him luck, but we’re very happy with the club we have.”

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