Boston has until Tuesday to complete a deal that would land former closer Billy Wagner in a waiver claim trade.
General Manger Theo Epstein should not complete this trade.
Why would Boston want to give up a marginal player or prospect and take on additional salary for a 38-year-old middle relief pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery?
Wagner is due $3.5 million on his contract. Wagner made his first appearance of 2009 last Thursday and pitched one inning against Atlanta striking out two batters. He consistently pitched in the low-to-mid 90s.
That’s when the hype began and started the process for the waiver claim.
However, it’s the only inning Wagner has pitched this season and now there are some questions concerning his health. The left-handed pitcher did not pitch against the Phillies at all this weekend and the Phillies are a team stacked with left-handed batters.
Wagner has a no trade clause he will waive only if Boston agrees not to pick up his option for 2010 or offer arbitration after the season, meaning the trade would be for a “rental player.”
Apparently Wagner is confident enough with his health and ability that he prefers to turn down an $8 million option for 2010 to become a free agent and sign with any team as a closer.
The best reason for passing on Wagner is team chemistry. Jonathan Papelbon, Boston's current closer, has already started the lip service fueling the argument against Wagner joining the team.
Papelbon is worried that adding a piece will also subtract a piece of the current staff and may upset the apple cart. He has seen additions of pitchers to the Red Sox staff who were coming off injuries—Eric Gagne, John Smoltz, and Brad Penny just to mention a few.
What Wagner has done in the past is impressive, having pitched nine seasons with 30 or more saves. His 385 career saves are 243 more than Papelbon’s. The former All-Star also has two 40+ save seasons with two different teams.
Wagner also knows a little about comebacks based on his arm surgery in 2000. In 2001, Wagner returned and pitched 62 innings and 39 saves.
So, why not take a chance on such an established pitcher with potential to help the team in the wild card race? Mostly, because the negatives outweigh the positives.
Boston is still leading the Wild Card race despite losing the weekend series with the Yankees. However, their offense is starting to come around and their relief pitching has not been the weakness of their staff.
Starting pitcher Tim Wakefield is coming back and Clay Buchholz is pitching much better lately. The starting rotation is in a position to be dominant again with Lester and Beckett heading up the front side. Everything about the team is starting to level off.
Adding a 38-year-old pitcher who is coming off Tommy John surgery does not make sense. Not when you would lose a player, add payroll, upset chemistry, and lose the pitcher at the end of the year anyway.
Theo Epstein should listen. Papelbon is speaking on behalf of the team. Let Wagner stay with the Mets where the team chemistry is already in shambles.