A few weeks ago sources reported that the Atlanta Braves had interest in reliever Billy Wagner to fill the role of the teams closer. Considering that Rafael Soriano who took over the role early last season, and Mike Gonzalez who also has experience in the position were free agents it was unsurprising that the Braves were looking to find an answer at the end of games.
Well the Braves are still interested in Wagner according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Last year the 38-year-old left-hander posted a 1.98 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 26/8 K/BB ratio and limited opponents to a .174 batting average in 15 appearances after returning from Tommy John surgery late in the season.
Wagner is experienced as anyone at the end of ball games. After all he’s been a closer for three different teams in his career. After racking up 225 saves in 9 seasons with Houston, he was traded to Philadelphia prior to 2004. In two seasons with the Phillies he picked up another 59 saves before becoming a free agent and joining the Mets. In his first three seasons with the Mets he picked up 101 saves but late in 2008 tore the medial collateral ligament in his left elbow and his flexor pronator sending him to Tommy John surgery. Wagner hardly expected to be used by the Mets in 2009 and after two games was traded to Boston.
All and all, Wanger has pitched for 15 seasons in the majors and picked up 385 saves. He’s been a six time all-star and only once had an ERA above 2.85 and that came in an injury shortened 2000.
Wagner may not be the safest bet to avoid injury in 2010 but considering the histories of Gonzalez and Soriano he’s no worse a bet. Wagner may not have 10 seasons left in his arm but he still projects as a reliable option at the end of games.
It’s unclear how much money Wagner expects to make though, and while there have been other teams linked to his name there has been no dollar amounts next to them.
If Wagner was to sign with the Braves he’d be giving the team a proven closer, and he’d inturn be getting his best chance at a World Series ring should he be searcing for jobs as a closer only. It remains unclear if Wagner would accept only offers that gave him a chance to be the clubs closer or if he’d sign with a contender as a setup man.
The talks between Wagner and the Braves figure to heat up during the winter meetings.