The Red Sox acquisition of Billy Wagner is brilliant. They acquired a fireball throwing left-hander for two yet to be named low minor leaguers. Their only exposure is the remaining money on his contract for this year. But toÂ quote James Earl Jones from Field of Dreams: “For it is money that they have, and peace that they seek”.
The Red Sox are in no danger of losing money. They have a lucrative television contract, a stadium that they have sucked every revenue opportunity out of, and a nationwide legion of fans purchasing their merchandise. However, they did realize that there is one precious commodity in baseball that no amount of money can currently buy: draft picks.
If Billy Wagner is offered arbitration after the season and doesn’t take it, the Red Sox get draft picks. Not only are they draft picks, but they are high draft picks. When you add in Billy Wagner’s desire to close, it is almost a lock that he will be leaving.Â The easiest way to see how much of a steal this was is to look at the three possible outcomes:
1) Wagner pitches terrific-For the cost of two low minor leaguers who barely qualify as prospects, the Sox get a veteran lefty that throws in the 90’s and has experience. Maybe he helps them win a game or two down the stretch and pitches some high leverage innings in the playoffs. When the season is over, Wagner wishes to return to closing as he has stated and rejects the arbitration offer from the Sox to seek a closing job. The Red Sox then receive sandwich round draft picks (which means they get some picks after the first round is over and before the second round starts)
2) Wagner pitches poorly– The Red Sox wasted a few relief innings on another Eric Gagne and they are probably no worse for it. If it’s just poorly, maybe they still offer him arbitration and he rejects it believing he can still close. The Sox still get the draft picks. If it is incredibly poorly, maybe the sox simply pay him his $1 million dollar buyout and let him go.
3) Wagner gets hurt-The worst case scenario, but here, the Sox would pay the buyout and send Wagner on his way.
Anyway you look at it the only thing the Sox have to lose here is money and (possibly) a game or two. Since they have a lot of money, the Sox basically just found a way to take a flier on a pitcher with upside and get two free draft picks at the same time. All of this begs one question: Why the hell wouldn’t the Mets just keep him?