With a looming deadline hanging overhead, New York Mets reliever Billy Wagner agreed to waive his no-trade clause and accept a trade to the Boston Red Sox. The New York Mets in return, will receive two players to be named later and the Red Sox will pay the remainder of Wagner’s $10.5 million 2009 salary.
Originally, the deal was put on hold due to Wagner’s request that the Red Sox not exercise his $8 million option for 2010 and also agree not to offer him salary arbitration. The six time All-Star closer made it clear that although he would be in a set-up role the remainder of this season, he has no plans to do so in 2010.
According to Wagner’s agent Bean Stringfellow, “Billy called me and said, ‘I’m going to throw caution to the wind and I’m going to go to Boston.’ Certainly, the Red Sox would give him a chance to play in the World Series, and this year that’s first and foremost” said Stringfellow.
Mets general manager Omar Minaya, who signed Wagner as a free agent in 2005 said, “He wanted to be part of a pennant race.” Minaya added, “We were able to get a couple of prospects for him. We felt it was the right thing to do.”
Mets manager Jerry Manuel, who was glad to have added Billy’s arm back in the bullpen, said “I’m happy for him to get an opportunity with a team that seems headed to the postseason. He should do well.”
The Charlottesville, Virginia native compiled 101 saves as a New York Met while striking out 236 batters in a total of 187.2 innings. Opponents have hit .189 against him for his career.
Wagner who came into the 2009 season ranked sixth all time in saves with 385, has his sights set on reaching the 400 saves plateau. Former Mets All-Star closer John Franco, who holds the record for most saves by a lefty (424), would be Billy’s next quest if age and injuries don’t take their toll.
Theo Epstein, Red Sox general manager said of Wagner, “He woke up and decided he wanted to join a team in the middle of a pennant race to have a chance to pitch in October and to have a chance to get a ring.” Epstein added, “There were some ups and downs and turns in the decision, but in the end he told us he woke up today and really wanted a chance to win a World Series, and he came for all the right reasons.”
“We were looking to add another left-handed reliever and I think we added a very quality, power left-handed reliever,” said Epstein. “Obviously his track record speaks for itself. Coming off the Tommy John surgery, we understand there are limitations, but we think with the depth of our bullpen, with rosters expanding in September, that’s something we can manage around and I think we stand to benefit by adding another quality pitcher.”
“We’re excited to have him and hopefully he can help us win a championship” said All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was initially cool to the idea of Wager joining the club. Papelbon added “I’ve watched him through the years. The biggest thing is, he pitches with heart. I love guys like that. I love guys that go out there and wear their heart on their sleeves.”
Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen, who might see some of his innings go to Wagner, said “Not many pitchers throw near 100mph from the left side. Hopefully he’s healthy and I know he can help us.” “As long as he is healthy and can contribute, I think it’s great.” he added. Delcarmen, like Papelbon, was also cautious at first, saying “If Wagner comes and helps us win, that’s what we want. But sometimes, shaking things up this late might work out differently.” “I think our bullpen is fine right now. We’ll see what happens.” He added.
On September 10, 2008, Wagner underwent Tommy John surgery following an MRI revealing tears in both the medial collateral ligament in his left elbow and the flexor pronator, a muscle in the forearm. Following lengthy rehab, Wagner made his Citi Field debut against the Atlanta Braves on August 20th recording a perfect inning while striking out two batters. Four days later, he repeated with a scoreless two strikeout performance in what was his last appearance as a New York Met.
The 38-year old southpaw now finds himself in the middle of the American League Wild Card race as he assumes the role of set-up man to All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon. However, with his ongoing rehabilitation from reconstructive surgery, Wagner has been prescribed to not pitch more often than every three days for the time being. “We’re realistic,” Epstein said. “He’s less than a year from Tommy John surgery.”
“When you add a reliever, any reliever, no matter how good in the middle of the season, it’s unknown what he’s going to add. We scouted him, we had a number of scouts at his outings and the reports were really positive. We think he is going to help. There’s no guarantee of present benefit or future benefit, but there’s a chance for both,” added Epstein.
The Red Sox, who needed reassurance that the reliever was healthy, were satisfied after Wager topped out his fastball at 96 mph.