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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Max
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Max

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.

Kevin S.
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Kevin S.

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.

Max
Guest
Max

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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