Wagner bound for Beantown


Billy is heading to Beantown.


That is, Billy Wagner, who reversed course
Tuesday and waived his no-trade clause after reportedly saying he would remain
with the Mets one day earlier.


Wagner, who was claimed on waivers by the Red
Sox last Friday, now heads to a crowded Boston bullpen in exchange for two
players to be named.


What changed his mind?


The Red Sox offered nothing new. They
accepted Wagner’s request to decline his contract option at season’s end, but
refused to budge on declining his salary arbitration, which would thereby
ensure them an additional Draft pick if he bolts.


All this seems to point toward Wagner’s
desire to play for a contending team.


Of course, the whole problem with pitching
for a contender is depth, and this case is no different. 


For Wagner to actually provide fantasy value
beyond just ERA, WHIP and a strong K/9 rate, he’ll need to earn a few saves. It’s
difficult to see that happening, what with Jonathan Papelbon already having a
firm grip on the closer job, and Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard and Takashi Saito
all competing for setup duty.


The good news is that Wagner, a six-time
All-Star closer who had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery on Sept.
10, 2008, has worked hard to claw his way back to prominence, and it
shows.  The 38-year-old lefty has combined for nine scoreless innings in
the Minors and the Majors this season. Remarkably, his fastball is back where
it was before going under the knife — in the mid-90s.


Perhaps that’s why Boston’s front office felt
willing to shoulder his hefty salary for a few weeks of the regular season.


Because at least now if something happens to
Papelbon, another experienced finisher can be called upon to step up, someone
who has more experience shutting the door than does Papelbon himself.


If you own Papelbon and you’re concerned
about his rising walk rate, there are worse gambles available than Wagner.



–Alex Cushing, MLB.com

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