Wagner And The 2010 Option

The Red Sox acquired Billy Wagner from the Mets today after a few days of drama surrounding the waiver claim, ranging from Wagner and Papelbon sparring over Twitter (is anyone surprised, with these two involved?), Wagner apparently invoking his no-trade clause to block the deal, and finally his “change of heart” that allowed the trade to be completed. The deal was certainly complicated, and came down to the last few minutes before the 48-hour window expired for everyone to get on the same page.

However, the most curious part of the negotiations center the team’s right to exercise his 2010 option, worth $8 million. Wagner apparently demanded that the Red Sox guarantee they would not pick up the option, making him a free agent this winter. However, he did not get the same assurance that they would not offer arbitration, and as a Type A free agent, Boston will have some incentive to do so.

By turning down his option and then offering arbitration, the Red Sox get the best of both worlds. If he accepts, they have him for 2010 at a price that should be in the same ballpark as his 2010 option was worth – maybe a bit more, but not outrageously so. If he declines and signs with another team, they’ll get two compensatory draft picks, which is the outcome you have to believe they’re hoping for.

But if Wagner thinks he’s going to hit free agency with Type A status hanging over his head, after just a month of pitching in the big leagues, and land a significant contract as a 38-year-old, he’s kinda crazy. Juan Cruz just had to suffer through a miserable off-season of avoidance as teams decided that relief pitchers weren’t worth both the loss of a pick and a big contract, and he finally ended up taking a two year, $6 million deal with the Royals as a last resort. And he wasn’t coming off arm surgery, nearly 40 years old, and known as a guy who causes issues with other players.

If the Red Sox offer arbitration and Wagner declines in order to become a free agent, he’s unlikely to get anything close to what he feels is fair market value for his services. Teams might be willing to give the pick if he’ll sign for peanuts, but I can’t imagine a 1 year, $2 or $3 million deal is what he’s looking forward to at the moment.

The only way this works out for Wagner is if the Red Sox decide not to offer him arbitration. Of course, if he pitches well down the stretch, that doesn’t seem likely, so the scenarios that involve them not tendering an arbitration offer also include Wagner not pitching well in September, and that isn’t likely to lead to a big payday for him either.

All in all, it seems like Wagner should have been asking the Red Sox to guarantee his option for 2010, exactly the opposite of the thing he negotiated. It was the only way he was going to get a guaranteed paycheck for 2010. Now, he’s going to have to hope for a pretty interesting set of circumstances to occur – he has to pitch well enough to re-establish his value to other clubs but not well enough for Boston to risk the chance that he could come back as a highly paid set-up guy for one year. I’m not sure I see too many ways that happens.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Big Steve
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Big Steve
7 years 1 month ago

Are you positive that he will be a type A free agent? I honestly don’t know, but Sheehan was questioning it.

nick
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nick
7 years 1 month ago

He’s a lock for Type A, outside of the Braves back end of the bullpen, the RP FA market is pretty barren. I honestly don’t think Wagner cares if he gets very little money (compared to his option), I think he just wants a closer’s job

big baby
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7 years 1 month ago

Mike Gonzalez (32)
Kevin Gregg (32)
Trevor Hoffman (42)
Fernando Rodney (33)
Rafael Soriano (30)
Jose Valverde (30)

i don’t know, i have a hard time believing a 39 year old wagner coming off of TJ is a more attractive option than most of those guys, and i can’t foresee many teams lining up to give away their first round draft pick for one year of billy wagner.

BJ
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BJ
7 years 1 month ago

You can find reverse-engineered Elias Rankings on the ‘net and right now, Wagner is somewhere in the middle of the Type A’s. With the categories being appearances, (lesser weighted) innings pitched, W+Saves, ERA, IP/H and K/BB, it’s not a done deal that Wagner is a lock for Type A status.

Consider Wagner’s small amount of IP and how one poor outing could drastically impact his rate stats and tumble him into Type B status.

It’s still not a bad move for the Red Sox. Not as dramatically amazing as Cameron makes it out to be… but that’s nothing new.

Considering Wagner’s desire to play close to home in Viriginia, he’ll be a prime candidate for the Nationals and Orioles (he’s expressed interest in playing for Washington) since both club’s need closers. If Wags holds Type A status, that’ll turn the compensation into a late sandwich pick and an early 2nd round selection since the first 15 are protected slots. The success rate of players drafted from 31-60 is not amazing but with two picks in that range for Wagner, it’s reasonable to expect that you get a player out of that mix.

@Nick: Type A/B/none status is based on all players not just players available.

SchmidtXC
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SchmidtXC
7 years 1 month ago

The elias rankings for this year take 2008 into account as well. Wagner pitched until late August last year. The sample size with his stats is easily large enough that 1 bad outing will barely affect his rankings. There’s no chance Boston will use him enough times to damage his type A status if he’s pitching poorly enough to hurt it.

John Q.
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John Q.
7 years 1 month ago

Supposedly, Wagner’s motivation for becoming a free-agent next year is more about getting to 400 saves that any financial windfall.

But really who cares about 400 saves? wouldn’t he rather have a shot a going to the W.S. with the Red Sox and getting a ring than some b.s thing like 400 saves??

don
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don
7 years 1 month ago

He also has a shot at being the all time left handed save leader (424), for what that’s worth. He wants the record.

There is no ‘Wagner’ in team.

Dim
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Dim
7 years 1 month ago

@ John Q.: I think he wants both. Contend for a W.S. this year with the Red Sox, then get a closing job (for a contender if possible) next season. Or he just wanted out from the Mets…

NM
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NM
7 years 1 month ago

wagner at 1 year with small pay and maybe some incentives is better than giving a closer like valverde a multi year deal.

Jon
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Jon
7 years 1 month ago

Wait, you’re saying that there’s a chance the Sox offer him arbitration and get a $8-9M setup man? I think you can’t lose more than 20% of your salary in arbitration, right? Not even the Yankees would have a $8M setup man.

Wagner did this right: If he doesn’t pitch well or thinks there won’t be a great market for him, he can accept arbitration and get the same amount he would have gotten with the option. If he declines, it’s because he thinks he’ll do better. If the Sox don’t risk offering it, there’s no compensation and he gets more as a free agent, and can go where he wants.

Seems like unless his arm falls off in September, the WORST case for him would have been the Sox exercising his option.

Rick
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Rick
7 years 1 month ago

Actually, the 20% rule is NOT applicable to free agent eligible players. So it isn’t guaranteed that he will get around 8 mil.

Jon
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Jon
7 years 1 month ago

Are you positive? I’m not sure, but Rosenthal wrote today: “Yet, as one general manager points out, accepting arbitration might be Wagner’s best financial move — the Red Sox, adhering to the 20 percent maximum paycut rule, could offer him no less than $8.4 million.”

Nick Smith
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Nick Smith
7 years 1 month ago

If Wagner demanded the Sox not pick up his option, why do they still have to pay a buyout?

tom s.
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tom s.
7 years 1 month ago

because as long as the parties agree, you can change a contract in pretty much any fashion.

basically, he waived his NTC in exchange for assurances that Boston would do what he wanted.

Diaz
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Diaz
7 years 1 month ago

I think Cameron is exagerating how few teams will be interested in Wagner. Not that I agree with this line of thought, but MLB GM have proven on many occassions to pay a premium for relievers who have a history of success as a a closer. Yes Juan Cruz had trouble finding a team last season, but he has never really closed teams and was signed as a set up man. Because of Wagner’s history, all the saves, and rep he will fool some dumb GM to offer him a 2 yr deal to close even at the expense of draft picks. (unless Wagner craps the bed) Also for those of you wondering if Boston would risk having Wagner accept arb, the answer is a resounding yes. The value of a 1st round pick is around 3.5 million and a sandwich pick is probably slightly less. If Wagner accepts arb, the Sox will have 30 days to cancell the contract at 1/6 the cost. (Im guessing around 1.5 million). That is a gamble any front office would take.

hailmatty
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hailmatty
7 years 1 month ago

No mention of the fact that Minaya gave away two high draft picks for two irrelevant players from Boston? Wagner is pretty much a lock to decline arbitration from any team that isn’t going to guarantee him the chance to get to 400 saves, so Omar needed to press Boston for at least one high upside prospect, if not two, since either the Mets or Red Sox will net those picks courtesy of Wagner’s type A status. Not sure why people aren’t more attuned to yet another Minaya blunder.

xo1
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xo1
7 years 1 month ago

The Mets had already announced that they were not going to offer arbitration. That may well have been blunder, but once they’ve decided not to offer the arbitration, the salary relief alone makes this deal make sense.

Boston, I believe, is one of the few organizations with the stones and resources to offer Wagner arbitration. If he pitches well this fall, it’s the right move. In fact, judged exclusively on the possibility of picking up the two picks, it is a nice move for the Sox. Add in the potential for on-field benefits, and we have another example of how good Theo is at his job.

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