Blog Entry

Braves hoping they signed Wagner of old

Posted on: December 2, 2009 9:09 pm

There is no question that the Braves are off to a far better start this winter than last, signing closer Billy Wagner on Monday after re-signing starter Tim Hudson in November.

Question is, is Wagner the right guy?

I don't see a lot of middle ground here: I think this is either going to work out extremely well ... or it's going to backfire badly.

The Braves signed Wagner for $6.75 million in 2010 and a $6.5 million club option for 2011 and, because Boston was smart enough to offer Wagner arbitration, the Braves also forfeit their first-round draft pick to the Red Sox next June.

That's a lot of freight to pay for a 38-year-old closer who missed most of last season following Tommy John ligament transfer surgery. And that's why I think the final verdict will be black or white, without shades of gray.

Wagner says his arm feels better than it has in a long time, and a small sample of games for Boston at the end of 2009 (1-1 with a 1.98 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings) backs him up.

And as Braves general manager Frank Wren notes, we're talking about a man who has converted 86 percent of his save opportunities over his career.

But is the 38-year-old, post-surgery Wagner still that guy?

That's the Braves' gamble, one in which they didn't blink in making Monday. (They do have a partial buffer zone for the lost draft pick, though, because they still stand to gain picks for relievers Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, who were offered arbitration, assuming they sign elsewhere).

The upside is tremendous, especially for a team Wren views as being capable of winning 90 games or more.

The downside? That manager Bobby Cox will be rummaging around his pen looking to fill the ninth-inning gap if Wagner blows out again or simply can't handle the requirements of a closer on a contending team (converting nearly every save opportunity, pitching on back-to-back days, etc.).

For now, this sure beats last winter, when the Braves spent November and December chasing their tail in failed Jake Peavy trade talks, finishing behind the Yankees in their pursuit of starter A.J. Burnett and getting burned by the agent for shortstop Rafael Furcal, who signed with the Dodgers after the Braves thought they had him.

Wagner's club option for 2011, by the way, becomes guaranteed if the lefty closer finishes 50 games next season.

If it gets that far, that will be money well spent.


Since: Mar 14, 2008
Posted on: December 3, 2009 9:55 am

Braves hoping they signed Wagner of old

Generally when they refer to finish games it simply means pitching the final out of the game whether it be a save opportunity or merely getting work in. It is a safer way contract wise than basing it simply on appearances because if he is ineffective as a closer they could move him to the 7th or 8th innings to relieve and he could pitch in 50 games but those would not count towards his option kicking in.

Since: Nov 20, 2006
Posted on: December 3, 2009 9:53 am


what if he doesn't pitch in a game, but in extra-innings he hits a walk-off homer....isn't that also finishing a game?  BTW, "finishing" a ML game means you were on the mound when your team records its last out defensively, regardless of outcome. 

Since: Dec 18, 2006
Posted on: December 3, 2009 1:50 am

Braves hoping they signed Wagner of old

Obviously, Finishing 50 games means just that. He has to FINISH the game.

Since: Dec 14, 2007
Posted on: December 3, 2009 12:54 am

Braves hoping they signed Wagner of old

From what I understand from reading like 6 or 7 articles is tat he needs to FINISH 50 games. It could be he saves them or it could be he loses, but finishing is the key.

Since: Jul 3, 2008
Posted on: December 2, 2009 10:26 pm

Braves hoping they signed Wagner of old

When it says "finishes 50 games," does that mean save 50, attempt to save 50, aor simply appear in 50?  Those are huge differences.

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