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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.