Zack Wheeler trade will haunt the Giants

The Giants and their fans will never forget 2010 and 2012. But 2011? They’d love nothing more than to erase that from their memories.

The Giants missed the playoffs. Buster Posey suffered a gruesome injury everyone wishes they hadn’t witnessed.

And in a last-ditch effort to make the playoffs, the team made an itchy trigger finger trade for Carlos Beltran in which they gave up the prize of their farm system, Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler, the top-ranked prospect in the Mets organization, spent the entire 2012 season in the minors splitting time between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo. In 25 starts, he posted a 12-8 record with a 3.26 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 149 innings.

The first-round pick of the Giants in 2009 made his spring debut for the Mets Saturday, pitching two shutout innings against the Washington Nationals.

He’ll probably start the season in the minors, but he may force his way into the big league rotation if he continues to dazzle during the spring.

The deal wouldn’t look so bad if the Giants had re-signed Beltran after the 2011. But Beltran and the team never got on the same page, and Beltran signed a two-year, $26 million deal with St. Louis.

But Beltran didn’t re-sign.

If he had, the Giants wouldn’t have needed a right fielder in 2012 and they wouldn’t have traded for Hunter Pence, who wouldn’t have given his inspirational speech in Cincinnati which propelled the Giants to the World Series.

So why does it matter, you might ask. Well, the Giants may need to replenish their rotation soon and Wheeler could have been a big part of that.

Instead, the Giants will have to face him a couple times a year for the next few years, which is sounding like a scarier proposition every time Wheeler steps on the mound.

Tim Lincecum will be a free agent at the end of this season and there is no guarantee that Lincecum will bounce back to his Cy Young-form of years past. If he doesn’t, the Giants won’t give him the big deal he wants.

Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong don’t have guaranteed contracts past this season. The Giants hold team options on both. Vogelsong’s option is team friendly — just $300,000 — but he’ll turn 37 during the 2014 season.

After Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ rotation is a gigantic question mark next season. They don’t have anybody in the minors that is close enough to help them.

Kyle Crick, their top prospect according to Baseball America, will start 2013 at High-A San Jose and should be ready for the majors by 2015.

Crick was ranked as the 66th best prospect in baseball heading into the 2013 season, the only Giants prospect to make the list.

2012 first-round draft pick Chris Stratton will also start the season in San Jose. As a college draftee, he could reach the majors quicker.

But Stratton suffered a concussion in August while with the Giants short-season team in Salem-Keizer, ending his season after just eight pro appearances.

Mike Kickham could be the closest to the majors. The 24-year-old lefty was drafted out of Missouri State in 2010 and spent the entire 2012 season at Double-A Richmond. Kickham is in major league camp right now.

In his write-up of Kickham on Baseball America, Andrew Baggarly wrote that the lefty has a chance to “establish himself as a viable major league option.” In 28 appearances (27 starts) for Richmond, Kickham struck out 137 in 151 innings pitched and finished with a 3.05 ERA.

If Wheeler turns into the star that he’s expected to be, and the Giants lose a few starters after this season, Brian Sabean and the Giants are going to regret giving up Wheeler in a desperation trade that didn’t help them at all.