Billy Wagner Returns

Assuming Billy Wagner’s appearances are nothing but an audition for another team, his first act went about as well as the Mets could script.

Wagner entered last night’s game in the eighth and faced Reid Gorecki, Chipper Jones, and Brian McCann. His first pitch was a 94 MPH fastball that missed inside. Wagner would fire a 94.7 MPH fastball for a strike on his next pitch before tossing Gorecki an off-speed pitch and some breaking stuff and retiring him on a swinging strikeout.

He’d fall behind Jones 3-0 and then induce a fly out to right field and make short work of McCann; getting ahead with two heaters (one hit foul, the other for a called strike) and then using his slider to generate a swing and a miss. It was like Wagner was in typical August fashion, making just another appearance.

14 pitches, two swinging strikes, and nine strikes total. Only five of those strikes were actually within the strike zone, meaning Wagner’s stuff looked attractive enough to batters to have them chase outside of the zone, as you can see here. He doesn’t touch 98 anymore, but the eight fastballs last night averaged about 95 miles per hour with good inward break towards lefties.

Wagner’s 2009 salary was 10.5 million with a little under two months to go, that cost is down considerably, making him a possibility for most teams. His 2010 club option is worth 8 million and comes with a million dollar buyout. The problem is that Wagner’s value doesn’t match his pending salary. Over the last three years he’s cracked 2 WAR once and that was in 2006.

As a 38-year-old reliever with injury issues, you have to believe whatever team Wagner winds up on will simply buy him out before attempting to re-sign him; especially given the market for old and injury prone relievers.

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10 Responses to “Billy Wagner Returns”

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  1. Max says:

    The real question from the Mets perspective when considering whether to trade him is how much would he be likely to get in arbitration.
    -At last count he was still qualified as a type A free agent (somehow)
    -He wants to close next year, something the Mets can’t offer

    So if the arbitration number is low enough, it seems worth the risk for the Mets to keep him, buy out his option and offer arbitration, confident that Wagner will decline it and possibly net them 2 draft picks.

    Of course if the arbitrator decides he’s worth upwards of $8M (who knows how these things work), Wagner may accept arbitration, in essence calling the Mets’ bluff and forcing their hand into either dropping him before the season starts or making a bad trade in ’10 and probably having to eat a large chunk of his salary.

    A lot of ways this could go.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      The arbitrator would decide these things after Wagner accepted, but precedent is that players always get a raise over their previous year’s salary, so arb really isn’t an option for the Mets here.

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      • Max says:

        Is that true? I think most players that accept Arb are 3-5 service year guys and that may be true for them, but what about for would-be free agents whose pervious contract wasn’t determined through Arb or an Arb based negotiation? Those guys didn’t used to accept Arb that often so I don’t know how much of a precedent there is.

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  2. Rich says:

    I question how long he can maintain his velocity before he hits some type of dead arm period, and once he reaches that point, how long will it take for him to regain it.

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  3. LeeTro says:

    I’m just amazed how my Braves won a game where the 3 opposing pitchers were Johan, Billy, and K-Rod.

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  4. Ed Nelson says:

    Still. Remember when Santana was just untouchable…

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  5. Chris says:

    Speaking of WAR, K-Rod has cracked 2 WAR JUST once in the past 3 seasons, and that was in 2007. He’s only 27, and is showing every sign of decline. Wagner has 385 career saves, a low 2.40 career ERA, and strikes out almost 12 guys per 9 innings for his career. See how meaningless these numbers can be?

    K-Rod’s ERA is well over 3 now, and his fastball doesn’t have the life it used to. Look at his WHIP over the past 3 seasons: 1.25, 1.29, and this year 1.30. Does that look like an elite closer to you?

    Billy Wagner’s career WHIP destroys K-Rod at 1.01… 38 or not, he has something to prove, and K-Rod is far more overpaid than Wagner at THIS point.

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    • Joe R says:

      I think 19 out of 20 people who post here would instantly say Wagner > K-Rod.

      Look at those WHIPs. His “worst” year since his blah 2000 was the 1.127 WHIP he posted in 2007. Since 2000 his WHIP is .953 (!!!!!!) and his K/BB is 4.49. Don’t care if he’s 38, that’s really good.

      K-Rod’s FB doesn’t seem THAT much slower than it used to be, but a drop from 94.8 to 92.7 is iffy. From July 18th on, though, he’s rocking a 1.703 WHIP, which is brutal.

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  6. XslyderX says:

    Wagner may be 38, but last year was going to be one of his best when he got injured. He had a great first half. Barring ijuries, he could be as good as ever.

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