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'Two good half-seasons': Brodie Van Wagenen responds to Zack Wheeler's comments

New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen

New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen at spring training on Feb. 12, 2020 at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Brodie Van Wagenen said he was “surprised” and “disappointed” to hear Zack Wheeler criticize the Mets this week, and he reiterated that although the Mets were interested in re-signing Wheeler during the offseason, he ended up with more money from the Phillies than the Mets thought he was worth.

“Our health and performance department, our coaches all contributed and helped him parlay two good half-seasons over the last five years into $118 million,” the Mets’ general manager said Friday. “I’m proud of what our group was able to help him accomplish. I’m happy he was rewarded for it. Players deserve to be rewarded when they perform well. More than anything else, I’m thrilled with the pitching staff we have.”

On Thursday, Wheeler told the New York Post in Clearwater, where the Phillies have spring training, that he heard “basically just crickets” when he checked in again with the Mets at the end of his free agency. That didn’t surprise him, he said, “because it’s them. It’s how they roll.”

Wheeler agreed to a five-year, $118 million deal with Philadelphia on Dec. 4. To fill the hole in their rotation, the Mets signed free agents Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha to one-year contracts.

“Obviously, everything starts at the top and it filters down,” Wheeler said. “Whether it be somebody’s fault or not, it starts at the top and goes down. Maybe the top gives them the OK but lower down they don’t want to do something.”

Van Wagenen, asked about the “crickets” notion, said he spoke with Wheeler’s agent “multiple times in the last week before he signed” after conversations around the trade deadline (when the Mets didn’t deal Wheeler) and earlier in the offseason.

“We were interested in bringing him back, and we communicated that,” Van Wagenen said. “Not at that level of contract.

“Zack is a good pitcher. That’s why we wanted to re-sign him. The contract and the market that he enjoyed was beyond what our appetite level was. I said that before. He got paid more than we were willing to give him.”

Wheeler, then a top prospect, joined the Mets via trade (for Carlos Beltran) in 2011 and debuted in 2013. But after missing all of 2015-16 and half of 2017 because of injuries, he had to reestablish himself as a major-leaguer.

The pair of good half-seasons Van Wagenen referred to were the second half of 2018 (1.68 ERA) and the second half of 2019 (2.83 ERA).  “That’s what elevated him to the contract that he received,” Van Wagenen said.

In his final two years with the Mets, Wheeler had a 3.65 ERA in 60 starts.

The Mets and Phillies’ first series is March 30-April 1 at Citi Field.

“He was able to make a choice on where he wanted to go. I hope he’s happy,” Van Wagenen said. “I genuinely believe that. Zack is a good pitcher and we wish him luck, but we like the guys we have and we’re looking forward to going and playing this year.”

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