That guy that looks like he should be pitching in the Special Olympics and not the majors is Billy Wagner. Let me give you a little background on Billy Boy.
Billy (what adult still goes by Billy?) used to be one of the best closers in baseball. He was with the Astros from 1995 until 2004. He was traded to the Phillies in 2004 where he was injured his first year but followed that up with a brilliant 2005 campaign. In 2005 he had a 1.51 ERA and 38 saves. That made him very attractive on the free agent market and he jumped ship to the division rival Mets.
Once a Met he had a decent 2006 recording 40 saves. But he was also part of the bullpen that collapsed down the stretch and caused the Mets to lose their division lead to the Phillies in ’06 and ’07 and by the end of ’07 the Mets were looking for a new closer with Wagner gone for the season needing Tommy John surgery.
At 38 years old many thought that would be the end of his career, but hungry for a paycheck (some say a championship) he rehabbed and made it back to the bigs this year. Problem for the Mets is, they’re a sub .500 team and don’t need his monster contract on the books. Not with K-Rod as their closer who they shelled out a ton of money this past off season.
So what do the Mets do? They place him on waivers. A potentially attractive pickup for a team needing arms down the stretch. Sure he’s pitched in two games, but what’s $3.5 million in additional salary? Well, for the Red Sox it’s nothing. So the Sox put in a claim and somehow he gets through to the Sox (I don’t know how the Rays or Rangers wouldn’t have tried).
Now here’s where the fun starts. Billy Boy has a no trade clause. So basically he can pick and choose where he’s dealt. He’s OK with a trade to Boston but has stipulations, the first being that the Sox can’t pick up his $8 million option for next year. The Sox seem receptive to that idea considering they don’t even know what this guy can do, hell he’s pitched two games this year.
The second stipulation is where the Sox take issue and I do too. He wants the Sox not to offer him arbitration. That’s kind of a sticking point. Remember the Varitek thing last year. Right, no team would sign him because they didn’t want to give up two high picks. Well, no team will want to give up two high picks for a 38 year old coming off Tommy John surgery either. But that’s what has made the Sox so good. They let guys like Pedro walk, declining salary arbitration and stock up the farm system with the high draft picks.
So I say Suck It Billy. Part of baseball is that it’s a business. The Sox aren’t going to trade a prospect to rent you for a month and then let you walk with nothing to show for it. What do you think they are, the Yankees?
By the time people read this he may already be a Red Sox, but then again he may not. At this point I’m hoping for not.