It has been only 11 months since undergoing Tommy John surgery, but Billy Wagner has been progressing quite well in his minor league rehab assignment. He has made four appearances facing live hitters and is yet to give up a run. His fastball has been clocked at 94 MPH and most importantly, he has not felt any pain in his surgically repaired elbow. Although he has not pitched in back-to-back games, the team expects him to do so at some point next week before recalling him to New York.
According to Adam Rubin of the Daily News, barring any setbacks, Wagner could make his return to the Mets in about 10 days. That means he would be pitching for the big club at some point during the next homestand. This would give the team a week or two to decide what they should do with Wagner before the August 31 deadline for teams to set their postseason rosters. They have numerous options. They could:
- Keep him for the rest of the season in the hopes of picking up his $8 million option for 2010. His option for next year is $600,000 less than JJ Putz’s $8.6 million option. If Wagner proves that he is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, he could provide much-needed help to Pedro Feliciano as a second left-handed reliever for Jerry Manuel to use out of the bullpen. Obviously, he would also be able to step in at closer should Francisco Rodriguez falter or get injured.
- Buy him out for $1 million, allowing Wagner to become a free agent. He could be a potential Type A free agent, meaning the Mets would receive a 2010 draft pick from the team that signs him. In addition to their own first round pick, the Mets would receive a “sandwich” pick, which is a supplemental draft pick squeezed in between the first and second rounds.
- Trade him to a contender to give him a greater opportunity to pitch in the postseason as a set-up man or his customary closer role. Should Wagner clear waivers, a deal before the August 31 deadline would net the Mets a number of prospects that could help the team or be used as bargaining chips in future trades.
The last week or two of August will prove to be a challenging one for the New York Mets with regards to the future of Billy Wagner. Due to the season-ending injury to Jonathon Niese, Bobby Parnell has been removed from the bullpen and inserted into the starting rotation. Should he do well in his first major league start against the Padres, he may hold on to his new role, therefore allowing Wagner to slide into the bullpen spot that was vacated by Parnell.
The decisions are many, but the time is limited. There have been too many wrong decisions made this year. Here is a chance for the Mets to finally make a correct decision that will help the team in 2009 and beyond. If it was up to you, what would you do with Billy Wagner? Would you keep him around for 2009 and beyond? Would you buy him out and reap the potential benefits of a gaggle of draft picks? How about trading him to a contender, giving him a chance to play deep into October while adding valuable prospects to the farm system? I surely wouldn’t want to be the GM on this one!