Billy Wagner came to terms on a one year, $7 million contract with the Atlanta Braves today, making this his third NL East team. Last season, he was let go by the New York Mets and picked up by the Boston Red Sox in time for a run to the playoffs. Does that equal $7 mil?
Wagner’s numbers have been very good to say the least over the last few seasons, not to mention this latest shortened year as he recovered from Tommy John Surgery. His worst ERA since 2000 was 2.73 back in ’01. He has 385 career saves and although he doesn’t throw as hard as he used to, Wagner is still deadly with his fastball/slider combo. His fastball still reaches 95, so his repertoire appears intact.
Scratching below the surface of this signing could reveal more, however. Firstly, that pushes Mike Gonzlaez and Rafael Soriano out of the running to be back in Atlanta next year, meaning two prized pieces are still available in free agency. It also could mean higher prices for relief pitchers.
To me, $7 million seems a bit steep for a guy coming off of Tommy John surgery who hasn’t pitched a full season since ’07. The Braves are taking a larger risk making him their closer, although it’s one that could pay off in spades should it work out. I figured a one year, $5 million deal would have been appropriate given his recent injuries.
Now, this could have a snowball effect for guys like Fernando Rodney, Gonzalez, Soriano, and Jose Valverde on the open market. If Wagner is receieving $7 mil with a vesting option for 2011 at $6.5 million (should he finish 50 games), then Valverde and the rest will surely command longer-term deals and are likely out of the Phillies price range. That crew of relievers could be looking at three-year deals worth $7-8 million per. Did Billy Wagner just screw things up for the rest?
Maybe I’m naive, but I honestly don’t believe Wagner is worth that much in free agency. And after that maneuver by the Braves, the Phillies will likely have to search the bargain bin for bullpen arms. Thanks, Billy.
One of those guys who might be affected by this is J.J. Putz. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, the Phillies are one of a handful of teams kicking the tires on the 32-year old right hander. He was one of the best arms out of the bullpen in the entire game a few seasons ago, but he too dealt with injuries as part of the Mets last year.
His track record is not as sparkling as Wagner’s, however, he put together very good seasons in Seattle before moving east and is six years younger. Good luck figuring out what he will command this winter, especially now that Wagner has set the precedent for job seekers.
Also, the Phillies have been named a potential suitor for Rafael Betancourt, this according to Fox Sports. Betancourt spent 2009 with Cleveland and Colorado.