Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Many Facets Of The Billy Wagner Signing

As was reported this morning, the Atlanta Braves signed Billy Wagner to a $7M deal with a $6.5M option that vests if he finishes 50 games in 2010. Wagner is no spring chicken - he'll turn 39 next July - and he only pitched 15 2/3 Major League innings since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2009. Granted, he was effective in those innings, but signing him carries a great deal of risk. It's not the deal itself that makes the Braves acquisition interesting, though; it's what it took to get to this point and what will also change hands as a result (and the fact that the Mets screwed themselves).

If you'll recall, the Mets traded Wagner to the Red Sox after only two appearances following his return from injury for (at the time) two players to be named later. It seemed as though the Red Sox were shoring up their bullpen for the stretch run and postseason, but in retrospect it seems that Theo Epstein had a little something more up his sleeve.

One of those PTBNL was a 26 year old minor league first baseman/outfielder named Chris Carter. In six MiLB seasons, Carter had a batting line of .306/.380/.510, but only sniffed the Majors because of the Fackin' Youkstah occupying 1B and several very capable (and expensive) players taking up the corners of the outfield. However, given the absence of Carlos Delgado and the struggles of David Murphy on the Mets, he would have been a useful piece and figured to get his first taste of regular season playing time in the Bigs.

Carter was on the 40 man roster of the Sox and in order for him to be included in the trade (since it occurred after the non-waiver deadline of July 31st) he had to pass through waivers (one of the reasons teams rarely send back players on the 40 man in waiver deals). Unfortunately for him, the Yankees placed a waiver claim on Carter and denied him the MLB at bats that he must have so badly desired. Since the Red Sox decided they needed that 40 man roster spot for pitcher Dustin Richardson (who pitched 3.1 innings for them this year), they DFA'd Carter, at which point any team could have claimed him - even the Mets, which would have forced the Sox to include someone else an additional player in the deal - but no one did.

So at the conclusion of the season, Carter returned to the Sox and, in addition to Eddie Lora, a 20 year old first baseman still in the Gulf Coast League, was sent to the Mets and the deal was completed.

When the Sox acquired Wagner, he asked them to agree that they would not exercise his $8M option for 2010 in hopes that he could close somewhere else. The Sox agreed to that term, but
were still allowed to offer him arbitration.

In a perfect world, Wagner would have been a Type B or unclassified free agent since he only pitched in 17 games last year, but since the Elias Rankings take previous years into consideration, he attained Type A status. As a result, when the Sox offered him arbitration, he turned it down and now they will likely receive the Braves 20th overall pick in addition to a supplemental rounder. Since the Sox are looking for a second baseman or shortstop (depending on whether Dustin Pedroia actually changes positions) it could lessen the burden of picking up a player like Marco Scutaro, who would cost the Sox a first round pick as our buddy Jason points out.

The Braves are not all that concerned about giving up their first round pick since they actually have two Type A free agents of their own hitting the marketplace - Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez - and figure that one or both are likely to decline the arbitration offers from the Braves and sign elsewhere. They surrendered their first rounder, but signed a pitcher who could very well fill the role of closer and doubled down with a team-friendly option if Wagner performs well this year.

The Sox got one of the highest draft picks you can receive in free agent compensation (#20, since the top 15 are protected) if the Braves don't sign a higher-ranking free agent and a supplemental rounder in exchange for a spare part and a Rookie League first baseman.

And what about the Mets? They ended up with Chris Carter, who could be a somewhat useful piece on their team next year, although at 27 he has limited upside, and Eddie Lora, who is light years away from the MLB.

Did Omar Minaya overlook the draft pick compensation system when he dealt Wagner on the cheap? Did Theo Epstein have it in mind when he acquired him? I can't help but think the Sox made out like bandits here.


  1. Can't help but agree with you that the Sox made out like theives. And Omar like a fool.

  2. Is there any other way to look at it other than to assume that Omar wasn't considering that Wagner would be a Type A and Theo was? It's become almost passe to trash on Omar but I think he got swindled here.

  3. That the Sox make smart moves and the Mets do not is not news.

  4. Does Minaya actually understand the entire free agent compensation part? I swear, he's got to be the worst GM in baseball.

  5. Dayton Moore on line one for you Rob...

    Minaya may not be the worst, but he's gotta be in the bottom in three

  6. Brian Sabean12/2/09, 3:29 PM

    Matt... thanks for not listing me explicitly.