Aaron Heilman: Start Me or Trade Me

There's a strange connection between the careers of Aaron Heilman and Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain started his Yankee career as a reliever and was so good, so fast that all anyone wanted to do was move him into the rotation. It is the right move, at least until Chamberlain proves that he can't handle the job because starting pitchers will always be more valuable than relievers.

Heilman went the opposite way. He came up as a starter and struggled, a one-hitter in early 2005 aside, before moving to the bullpen where he thrived. No matter how well he pitched, and until 2008 he pitched very well, or how much other starters struggled, Heilman couldn't shake the impression he made in his early days. The Mets decided he was better suited for relief work and, no matter how much Heilman wanted to switch back, they wouldn't let a return engagement happen.

Heilman has always suffered in good nature, but his patience appears to have run out. His agent told the Daily News that Heilman wants to be a starter and, if the Mets don't agree, he'd like to be moved somewhere he'll get the chance. A trade seems like the most sensible move. If you move Heilman back to the rotation after all this time, every bad start will become a launching pad for hysterical calls to move him back to the pen. He needs more rope than that if he's going to make it.

The Rockies are always mentioned as an interested party in Heilman trade rumors, and it would be interesting to see if the Mets could work a trade involving Huston Street. The former A's closer would neatly replace Heilman, fit as part of a revamped bullpen and provide cover if the Mets decide that Francisco Rodriguez's salary demands are too grandiose.

Imagine, for a moment, if Heilman had been introduced via the bullpen, a la Chamberlain, and pitched as well as he did in 2006 and 2007. There would be a groundswell of support for his move to the rotation, where he may very well have succeeded and given the Mets an affordable, effective starter for the last few years. He got labeled in his first 25 big league games, instead, and will need to go elsewhere to get the chance to change it.

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