Skip to content

Wagner shows Red Sox are smarter than Mets

Dec 2, 2009, 1:55 PM EDT

Now that Billy Wagner has signed with the Braves we can fully assess just how masterfully general manager Theo Epstein and company handled his brief time in Boston from the Red Sox’s point of view.
Back in late August the Red Sox sent a pair of players to be named later to the Mets for Wagner, agreeing to assume $3.2 million in salary. Chris Carter and Eddie Lora turned out to be the PTBNLs, and while certainly not without value both are fairly marginal prospects.
However, because the Red Sox were able to take Wagner’s salary off the Mets’ hands and then made the correct decision to offer him arbitration, they now stand to receive the No. 19 overall pick and another selection between the first and second rounds in next June’s draft. So for $3.2 million and a pair of fungible minor leaguers the Red Sox are going to end up with 15 appearances of 1.98 ERA pitching from Wagner, the 19th overall pick, and a second-round pick.
The whole process is an example of why teams with big budgets have advantages that go beyond being able to hand out huge multi-year contracts. Most teams wouldn’t have had the payroll leeway to add $3.2 million in late August and many teams would have shied away from offering Wagner arbitration for fear that he’d accept and stick them with a big commitment for 2010. Boston had payroll room to add Wagner and no real worries about being stuck with a bill for 2010.
Along with some clever maneuvering by Epstein that basically allowed them to buy a pair of high draft picks, which a study by Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus determined to be worth around $12 million. Of course, having a big budget alone doesn’t mean everything, because the Mets have nearly as much cash to fling around as the Red Sox and simply failed to recognize (or care about) Wagner’s value as a source of draft picks. Instead they saved $3 million in cash and lost $12 million in draft picks.

  1. Dan - Dec 2, 2009 at 2:44 PM

    I think in most cases, you’re right, but the Mets finances (especially in August) weren’t really that solid. Saving $3.5MM plus not having to spend money on extra picks — I know, weak, but typical if you’re cost-cutting — is not necessarily bad. That’s inconsistent now with spending $2.5MM on Alex Cora and Chris Coste,
    Plus, I believe the Mets had a gentelman’s agreement with Wagner to not offer him arbitration. Wagner invoked his no-trade clause to force the issue with the Red Sox, but ended up just wanting a chance to win maybe?

  2. Joey B - Dec 2, 2009 at 4:15 PM

    “Saving $3.5MM plus not having to spend money on extra picks — I know, weak, but typical if you’re cost-cutting — is not necessarily bad. That’s inconsistent now with spending $2.5MM on Alex Cora and Chris Coste,”
    It’s actually only $2.75M ($10.5M/6+1M), but still a bad decision. Like Craig said, it’s a much easier decision for the RS. They needed a LH BP arm for the stretch run and beyond, and they have money to gamble with. So they can take a chance that maybe MN can’t.
    But there are a fairly large number of teams out there with $100M+ payrolls, with the NYM being chief among them. It’s not like Det, Atl, and a few others couldn’t afford to take a $2.75M gamble on a stretch run.
    And even for the smaller market teams, if you want to build your franchise, you have to start by showing the fans that you are committed to winning.

  3. JBerardi - Dec 2, 2009 at 4:16 PM

    Along with some clever maneuvering by Epstein that basically allowed them to buy a pair of high draft picks, which a study by Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus determined to be worth around $12 million.

    It’s could very well be worth even more than $12 million to the Red Sox, since they tend draft and develop players well, and love to go over-slot on players who fall due to contract demands/signability issues.

  4. lookatthosetwins - Dec 2, 2009 at 4:34 PM

    I don’t think 12 million is right. Victor Wang put the average value at about 5 million for a Type A. http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/valuing-the-draft-part-one

  5. Bruno - Dec 2, 2009 at 4:51 PM

    Dan – good thoughts, but not 100% accurate… If I recall correctly, Wagner agreed to waive his no trade and come to Boston when the Red Sox agreed not to exercise their club option for 2010. He wanted them to agree not to offer arbitration as well, but the Sox, smartly as noted above, wouldn’t go there.

  6. Joey B - Dec 2, 2009 at 6:29 PM

    “I don’t think 12 million is right. Victor Wang put the average value at about 5 million for a Type A.”
    Thank you for the very interestng article. There are two things I’d like to comment on-
    1-The data is a bit old. I’m not sure what the inflation rate is, but if the average value of an A pick was $5M 7+ years ago, it could easily be $10M now.
    2-The study, as you mention, is an average. A #19/20 pick would be in the top third and probably a good bit than average. An average pick for the entire first round might be $7M for example, but the average value of a #2 might be 10x the value for the average #30.

  7. Dan - Dec 3, 2009 at 8:26 AM

    Look, I’m no Omar Minaya fan, and I think that he mishandled the Wagner deal for reasons other than Craig articulates. But the big moron here isn’t the Minaya. It’s Frank Wren.
    The dude just gave up $7MM and the 19th overall pick. They got a 38 year old reliever who just came off TJ surgery and has a total of 17.7 IP under his belt since. He also failed to offer arbitration to Type B FA Adam LaRoche — who would have cost the team about $7MM had he accepted — yet traded Casey Kotchman to acquire him.
    So in effect, Wren traded Casey Kotchman (3.2 years of ML service time), the 19th overall pick, and a sandwich pick, for a 38 year old, recently injured closer — and unlike Minaya, did so with near-perfect information.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Does anyone want to win the NL wild card?
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. M. Cuddyer (2955)
  2. R. Castillo (2818)
  3. J. Werth (2261)
  4. A. Garcia (2259)
  5. A. McCutchen (2191)
  1. M. Fiers (2187)
  2. W. Myers (2167)
  3. C. Gonzalez (2136)
  4. K. Bryant (2131)
  5. Y. Molina (2037)