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It has become a war of words, and demands, and soon Red Sox Nation will find out if Billy Wagner will join the team as a new member of the bullpen. One thing’s for certain: it will be on the team’s terms.
There are several factors that need to be tinkered with to make the deal go through. Wagner said he would be willing to give up his no trade clause to go to Boston, only if the Red Sox do not pick up his option for next season, or offer him salary arbitration. Apparently, Wagner doesn’t want to be put in a permanent setup role and instead move to a team where he will have the opportunity to become a closer for another team.
According to the Boston Globe, the Red Sox have since declined both demands.
“I don’t want to end my career as a setup man,” said Wagner.
Seemingly, Wagner has faith in his pitching abilities after making only one appearance since recovering from Tommy John surgery. The six-time All Star is a dominating force and can bring a great lefty arm to an already stacked bullpen, and potentially fight current closer Jonathan Papelbon for that position.
Regarding Papelbon, he doesn’t see the point in acquiring Wagner and having him replace someone on an already stacked bullpen. With Manny Delcarmen, Hediki Okijima, Ramon Ramirez, Takashi Saito and closer-of-the-future Daniel Bard, the Red Sox have a pen that can match the best in baseball.
Papelbon spoke out about his reservations for a potential Wagner acquisition:
“Is Billy Wagner a great pitcher and would he bring some more depth to our bullpen and make our bullpen better? There’s no question about it. But you have to also think about what we have now and what we’ve been able to accomplish at this point of the season and how good we’ve been.”
On Sept. 1, teams are allowed to increase their roster size, and by that time, Wagner can just be another weapon.
During the Red Sox-Yankees game on Sunday night, commentator Steve Philips, a former GM for the New York Mets, said, hypothetically, how the Red Sox should turn Wagner into the closer and use Papelbon as trade bait in the offseason.
Wagner has been a dominating closer for the Astros, Phillies, and recently, the Mets, but has only made one appearance since his surgery, a one-inning appearance with two strikeouts. Papelbon has been a fixture in Boston since 2006 and is a local celebrity. Taking into account the ten-year age difference, it’s hard to see Boston getting rid of “Cinco Ocho,” unless a truly remarkable deal comes through.
Papelbon is already the Sox all-time save leader and is a valuable teammate. Wagner, on the other hand, appears to have little faith in pitching in Boston beyond this year. Should the deal go through, it could possibly turn into a bust. Should Wagner not have a strong impact, he will be compared (perhaps unfairly) to Eric Gagne, who was acquired in a deadline deal in 2007.
The Red Sox have until Tuesday to make a deal with the Mets in acquiring Wagner. With Boston not willing to make promises of not picking up his option, or offer arbitration, it seems unlikely Wagner will make the trip to Beantown. The Mets could pull him off waivers Tuesday and keep him in their bullpen with the hopes of having Wagner set up new closer Francisco Rodriguez this year and next year.
Whatever the outcome, the Sox will have a satisfactory bullpen that can band together and shut a team down. Wagner would just be another piece to the puzzle.