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The Risk And Reward Behind The Braves Signing Billy Wagner

It didn't take very long for the Atlanta Braves to find their man.

After being offered arbitration last night by the Red Sox, the Braves finalized an agreement to bring reliever Billy Wagner to their club this morning. The deal will reportedly net Wagner $7M in his one-year contract.

This is a great deal for the Braves. As we saw last season, Wagner still has one helluva an arm and I wouldn't put it past him to pitch even better in 2010. Wagner really is a freak of nature when it comes to pitching. I just wish we could have watched him for an entire season.

This, of course, means draft picks for the Red Sox:

The Sox make out here, barring a few unlikely contingencies. Upon finality of the contract, the Sox will receive the Braves’ first-round draft choice – the 20th pick in next year’s draft – and a pick in the supplemental round, which comes between the first and second rounds.

Solid. This signing alone, if you want to look at it this way, means the Sox can sign themselves a Type-A free agent and essentially even out. Matt Holliday? Marco Scutaro? Or, better yet, they re-sign Jason Bay and keep their extra draft picks instead of squandering them for a Type-A free agent.

The signing of Wagner, however, obviously brings some risk to the Atlanta team:

But there’s risk here, and this might have been as much an economic decision as a baseball one. The Braves have offered arbitration to both Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez. But they have a thing about giving fat, multi-year contracts to relievers, and there’s a good chance both will get more money and more years elsewhere.

If the Braves lose both Soriano and Gonzalez, it means the 38-year-old Wagner is the man at the back of the bullpen. For Wren, this could wind up being a smart decision, both for the team and the payroll. It also could backfire. But maybe the Braves are due to have one of these risks work out.

The only risk is an injury risk, in my opinion. The guy can still chuck, so as long as he's healthy and can throw the ball, the Braves have themselves a great closer. Keep him fresh and use him sparingly -- that's what the Braves need to remember. No long save situations. Three outs and that's it. Let Wagner do what he's capable of, and you have an All-Star.

As OTM's sister site, Talking Chop, they seem to like the deal:

The $7 million salary for 2010 is essentially replacing Rafael Soriano's $7 million salary from last season. The Red Sox offered Wagner, a type-A free agent, arbitration, so the Braves stand to lose their first round pick. But by offering Soriano and Mike Gonzalez arbitration yesterday, the Braves should gain that pick back (plus some) if those two relievers, as expected, sign elsewhere.


This is a good signing by Frank Wren and company. Wagner proved he was plenty-healthy last year, and he is absolutely one of the best closers in the game. Well played, and a good upgrade (yes, upgrade) over Soriano or Gonzalez. Add to all this that Wagner hasn't made as low as $7 million since 2001, and we not only got a great closer we got him for a bargain -- pure Braves move.

Oh, and by the way, Billy Wagner's agent is named Bean Stringfellow... Bean Stringfellow.

Bean Stringfellow is a hilarious name.