Atlanta Braves Find A New Closer, Sign Billy Wagner

According to Ken Rosenthal of, the Atlanta Braves have reached a preliminary agreement with left-handed closer Billy Wagner on a one-year, $7 million deal with a vesting option for 2011.

The vesting option is for $6.5 million and will kick in if Wagner finishes 50 games for the Braves in 2010.

Wagner will be closing for the Braves in 2010

Wagner returned last season from Tommy John surgery in August and pitched two games for the New York Mets. In those two games, Wagner struckout four batters in two innings and his fastball was consistently in the mid-90’s.

Ironically, the first team Wagner faced in 2009 was the Braves. Convinced that Wagner could help them down the stretch, the Boston Red Sox traded for Wagner to be another bridge to closer Jonathan Papelbon.

In 15 regular season games for the Red Sox, Wagner had a 1.98 ERA and had 22 K’s in 13.2 innings. Wagner appeared in two postseason games for the Red Sox and gave up two runs in one total inning of work.

Let’s talk about Wagner in the playoffs for a second.

It’s funny how players are perceived in the minds of the media and fans. When someone mentions Wagner, the first thing they think of is a 100 mph fastball. The second thing would probably be solid closer for many years.

The one thing nobody mentions is that Wagner might just be the worst postseason relief pitcher of all time. When it comes to October baseball, Mariano Rivera he is not.

In 13 postseason games with the Houston Astros, Mets, and Red Sox, Wagner has a 10.32 ERA, has a 1.941 WHIP, and has given up 20 hits in 11.1 innings pitched. He has done more harm than good for his teams in the playoffs.

While the Braves are getting the guy who is sixth all-time in saves with 385, they are also getting the guy who might cost them a playoff game if they get there.

Because Wagner is a Type A free agent and the Red Sox offered Wagner arbitration yesterday, the Red Sox will receive the Braves’ first-round pick in 2010–plus a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds. The Braves have the 20th pick in the 2010 draft.

As Rosenthal mentions, the Braves will most likely recoup that pick because their former closers Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano are both Type A free agents and both were offered arbitration by the braves.

Financially, this isn’t a bad deal for the Braves because if they were to re-sign either Soriano or Gonzalez, it would have cost the Braves more money per year and more of a commitment. The Braves need all the extra cash they can get in hopes of eventually acquiring a bat.

Wagner will be 39 next year and has pitched for the Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Mets, and Red Sox in his 15 year career.

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2 Responses to “Atlanta Braves Find A New Closer, Sign Billy Wagner”

  1. Tom Spirakis Says:

    More of a question then a comment.

    Wouldn’t the Mets have been smart to keep him, offer him arbitration. Let another team sign him and bank the draft picks. If I remember correctly they did not get much from the Redsox?

    • Adam Bernacchio Says:

      Yes, the Mets would have been extremely smart to keep him. They didn’t get much for Wagner–Chris Carter is nothing special.

      Smart and Mets in the same sentence is a rarity these days

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