Liked playing in Boston
Another angle on Wagner
Arbitration could be viable option
CHICAGO - If Billy Wagner is willing to work as a setup man for Jonathan Papelbon, the Red Sox aren’t averse to the idea of the veteran lefthander accepting salary arbitration.
Wagner, 38, said repeatedly after being acquired from the Mets in August that his goal was to again become a closer with another team in 2010. But agent Bean Stringfellow is now saying Wagner enjoyed his time in Boston enough to consider accepting arbitration.
Teams have until Dec. 1 to make such offers. The player then has a week to decide.
“In an ideal world, we’d love to have Billy back if he were willing to accept a non-closer role. It seems like he is,’’ Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. “But we would have to restructure a few things with some other pieces of the club to be able to afford that luxury with what he’s likely to make next year.’’
As a veteran free agent, Wagner would not be guaranteed any particular salary through arbitration. He earned $10.5 million last season but pitched in only 15 games after recovering from elbow surgery.
So accepting arbitration would bring the risk of Wagner earning less than he could on the open market as a closer. If that were his choice, the Sox would be willing to play along.
“That doesn’t scare us away. I don’t think he’s going to force his way onto our club unless we want him,’’ Epstein said. “I think there’s a really good relationship there. [If] we can find a way where it fits for us and it works for him, then we’ll do it. If it doesn’t work for us, I don’t think he’s going to put himself in a position where he accepts arbitration, forces his way onto our club, and we trade him on June 15 because we can’t afford him.’’
Wagner had a 1.98 ERA in 13 2/3 innings with the Red Sox. Opponents hit .174 against him.
Wagner is a Type A free agent. If the Red Sox offer him arbitration, they would receive two draft picks as compensation should he sign with another team. Given the value most teams place on draft picks, that could lower Wagner’s value on the open market.
Stringfellow’s statement could be with that in mind. But if it is a bluff, the Sox could call him on it.
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.