Dan Wheeler will decline the Red Sox’s arbitration offer

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Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports that free agent reliever Dan Wheeler will decline the Red Sox’s arbitration offer by tonight’s deadline.

However, according to MacPherson the two sides will “maintain dialogue” while he’s on the open market.

Wheeler accepting arbitration would have locked the Red Sox into a one-year deal worth around $3.5 million, but apparently the 34-year-old right-hander thinks he can top that after throwing 49 innings with a 4.38 ERA and 39/8 K/BB ratio.

Wheeler struggles too much against left-handed hitters and gives up too many homers to be an ideal late-inning option, but prior to 2011 he posted a sub-3.50 ERA five times in six seasons.

UPDATE: Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe speculates that the two sides had a handshake agreement in place for Wheeler to decline arbitration–and basically give the Red Sox a free draft pick–which makes sense considering the trouble he may have topping $3.5 million or so elsewhere.