Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen swung back at Zack Wheeler on Friday, a day after the former Met took a shot at the team for not trying harder to re-sign him this offseason before he went to the Phillies.
"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, Van Wagenen said, according to David Lennon of Newsday. "So I'm proud of what our group was able to help him accomplish. I'm happy he was rewarded for it."
Wheeler said Thursday while speaking to Greg Joyce of the New York Post that he hadn't heard back from the Mets before signing with the Phillies, saying he wasn't surprised "because it's them. It's how they roll."
The 29-year-old Wheeler added that it was "basically just crickets" from the Mets when his agent circled back with them before accepting the offer from Philadelphia.
Van Wagenen, who said he was "surprised" and "disappointed" by Wheeler's comments, disputed the claim from Wheeler that there were "crickets" coming from the Mets' side, telling SNY's Steve Gelbs that the Mets had contact with Wheeler's agent up until a week before he signed with Philadelphia.
"Zack is a good pitcher," Van Wagenen added, according to Newsday's Tim Healey. "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."
The Mets had discussions with Wheeler's camp about a potential extension before he hit free agency, but were unable to bridge the gap. In the weeks before Wheeler signed his five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies, Van Wagenen left the door open for a return but made it seem like the chances of it happening were remote.
In his comments to the New York Post on Thursday, Wheeler also took a broader swipe at the Mets organization.
"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. Or maybe up top, they don't give you the opportunity to do something but everybody else wants to do it. That's kind of how it was there at certain points. Everything was kind of jumpy because certain people would want something, others wouldn't. I don't think everyone was on the same page."
Wheeler, who battled injuries and inconsistency during large swaths of the seven seasons he spent with the Mets, was one of the better pitchers in baseball during the second half of the 2018 season, when his numbers rivaled that of teammate Jacob deGrom.
Last season, Wheeler had a 4.71 ERA entering his start on Aug. 1 before stepping up his game down the stretch and winding up with an overall ERA of 3.96 to go along with a 1.25 WHIP in a career-high 195.1 innings as he entered free agency.
Those 2018 and 2019 runs of dominance are the "two half seasons" over the last five years Van Wagenen was referring to, but it should also be noted that Wheeler put together strong seasons in 2013 and 2014 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2015 and 2016.