A lot has been made of Billy Wagner being shipped off for salary relief and little else. The complaint is preicated on the notion that if we had offered Billmando Wagnetiz arbitration, his desire to close would overrule his desire to get paid, he would assuredly reject arbitration and we (the Mets) would walk away with two shiny new draft picks.
There are those who think that Billy will easily find work, while others, such as myself, feel as though this is a dicey proposition. Rather than arguing back and forth, it seems prudent to look at teams who would be in the market for a closer and to then try to make a logical argument as to why they would be likely to forfeit their draft picks and pay Wagner to close for them.
If you feel as though I've left any teams out, please say so in the comments.
Orioles - I don't see them as having a true in-house replacement, though Jim Johnson has a nice ERA and has been doing a passable job. But I would find it surprising that under the new management, the Orioles would be interested in sacrificing their 2nd round pick to sign a 39 year old closer. Doubtful.
Cubs - Marmol is their present closer, but he's been worse than K-Rod in the free passes department. While he has nasty stuff, it's quite possible that they would be in the market for a new closer. In the mix.
Tigers - Rodney will be a free agent, but I don't think it's out of the question they would bring him back. Despite the fact that he too is from the K-Rod school of free passes, he's 28 for 29 in closing opportunities. However, they're clearly in the market for a closer.
Braves - Both Soriano and Gonzalez are free agents, and there are no other in house candidates, so they'll have a need for a closer.
Marlins - Lack a true closer, with Nunez taking over for Lindstrom. Both Nunez and Lindstrom are under team control next year, though neither are the safest bets. Regardless, I can't imagine the Marlins dipping into the FA market for a closer who would cost them Type A compensation and millions of dollars. Doubtful.
Nationals - Need for a closer and an object of Billy's affection. The question is, why would they sign Wagner and fork over a 2nd round pick when they're just going to finish last again? Not to mention the possible in house alternative of Storen. Doubtful.
Astros - Billy's old team. Valverde is leaving. Seem to have money problems. Dumb management. Seems like they might value Billy's low monetary price tag and not care as much about draft pick compensation. Strong possibility.
Brewers - No in house options, though judging from last year's off season, they seem to be reluctant to get involved in the FA closer market, as they passed on Wood, Fuentes and K-Rod and instead went after FA bargain Hoffman. If that was their strategy last year, I find it hard to believe they'd all of a sudden they'd suddenly be interested in dipping in this year.
There are four teams out there that seem like possible matches for Wagner: the Cubs, Braves, Astros, and Tigers. Keep in mind the following closers are all available: Mike Gonzalez, Kevin Gregg, Trevor Hoffman, Fernando Rodney, Rafael Soriano, and Jose Valverde. Wagner is competing with six other closers for what looks like four spots. Of those closers, who is Wagner demonstrably better than? Gregg and maybe Mike Gonzalez? That would leave Wagner as the fifth best available closer. Considering the talent on hand, I can't imagine why either the Braves or the Tigers would bring in a free agent closer who wouldn't be much of an upgrade, and in addition, lose a draft pick. Especially for the Tigers, as Rodney is only a Type B, so they wouldn't be able to replace his pick.
Ultimately, it appears as though Wagner is competing for, at best, four closer jobs, with seven other closers. And quite possibly, there could be only two teams with openings. Considering his age, murky health reputation, and Type A status, it seems like a large leap of faith to assume that there will be a warm closers job waiting for him with open arms come winter time. And if he's left out in the cold, I'm sure he would quickly warm up (pun-gasm!) to the idea of getting paid 8 million dollars to set up.
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