The Atlanta Braves didn’t wait long too decide who their closer will be for the 2010 season. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Billy Wagner has just signed a two year deal with the Braves.
He becomes the first big name free agent to find a new home after agreeing on a new one year deal for $7 million dollars that includes a $6.5MM option for 2011 that vests if Wagner finishes 50 games.
Wagner now becomes the third 2009 Met to sign on with a rival NL East team. Wilson Valdez and Brian Schneider have already signed deals with the Philadelphia Phillies. It looks like it will be all out war in the division for first place.
Wagner will have plenty of motivation to keep him going as he continues to pursue his goal of becoming the all time lefthanded save leader, needing just 40 more saves to pass up former Mets great, John Franco.
Wagner had missed parts of two seasons after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008, and made such a remarkable recovery that it prompted the Red Sox to trade two prospects, Chris Carter and Eddie Lora, to the Mets for him. He went on to make 13 appearances for them in the heat of a pennant race and posted a 1.98 ERA.
The Red Sox will be well compensated as they now will receive two top draft picks, including the Braves first round pick.
You can imagine how confident the Braves must be in Wagner’s ability to close, when you consider the high cost of a first rounder in addition to the $7 million dollars.
However the Braves do have two type A free agents of their own in Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano and they should be able to recoup not one, but two first rounders as they did offer arbitration to both of them.
It remains to be seen how well the Mets make out with those two Red Sox prospects, but I have yet to see one peep that would suggest either of them will be on the Mets 25 man roster.
So as Omar Minaya tries desperately to get the Mets back into a playoff caliber team, the Braves just took two steps forward. And when you couple Wagner with the return of what looks like one of the the most dominant rotations in the NL East, the Mets have a lot of leap frogging to do if they expect to win the division or even finish in second place.
As for you Billy the Kid lovers, you’ll be seeing plenty of Wags in 2010 as the Mets and Braves will face off nineteen times next season.
One interesting note about the rumor mill, not one rumor pegged either the Wagner signing or the Schneider signing, as both became news after their deals were done.
I spoke to my cousin this evening who works for CBS Sports Radio in New York. He is specifically assigned to covering the New York Yankees, and produces all the multimedia and video for each broadcast. He has a great working relationship with many of the players and people in the front office, and helps produce much of the video footage and player and front office video interview footage you see on YES Network.
I asked him about the Johnny Damon rumors and he told me there was absolutely no truth to it. I asked him if he would make a call and see if someone closer to Brian Cashman would know more, and he responded no way, if there was anything like that going on we would all know about it first. By we he means Michael Kay and John Sterling who he works with everyday. In the past, he confirmed the A-Rod, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira signings to me at least a half hour before the stories broke on ESPN. So I wouldn’t worry too much about Damon signing with the Mets.