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Arbitration offers: Billy Wagner, Bengie Molina and the Mets
Yesterday marked one of the more exciting day for the hard-core baseball geeks, andeven for those who aren't interested in Type A and Type B free agents and the draft, it's meaningful, because now things will start to get busy.
Leave it to Billy Wagner to become the first Type A free agent to sign, and - of course - to set off another round of justified Mets criticism.
Yup, now it's official: The Mets should've kept Wagner and just offered him arbitration - or, if they were that concerned about his destination, they could've just exercised his $8 million team option and traded him, the tactic the Yankees used with Gary Sheffield three years ago to keep Sheffield away from the Red Sox.
By trading Wagner to the Red Sox last August, the Mets saved themselves about $3.5 million, over half of which they just spent to bring back Alex Cora. They would've been far better off reallocating Cora's $2 million - let's call it $1.5 million, since they could've found a backup infielder for $500,000 - toward the two draft picks they would've gained from losing Wagner to another team after offering him arbitration.
Would the Braves have been less likely to sign Wagner if they knew their pick was going to the Mets, rather than Boston? I doubt it. Two years ago, the Braves gave the Mets their first-round pick for the privilege of signing Tom Glavine, for crying out loud.
The Braves can give up the draft pick because, having offered arbitration to Type A relievers Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, they're extremely likely to recoup some other picks.
The Wagner signing certainly speaks optimisitically of this free-agent market. I never thought Wagner would get $7 million guaranteed. It should be noted, however, that the Braves are likely to be one of the more aggressive teams this winter. People who attended the owners' meetings in Chicago last month came away with that sense about Atlanta, and one executive even predicted the Braves as a darkhorse contender for Matt Holliday, if they could unload Derek Lowe. From checking around some more on that one, I'd say that's unlikely.
Did the Braves do well? Committing so much to Wagner is undoubtedly a risk, given his small sample size of work after his return from Tommy John surgery. It reflects the industry's faith that the procedure works.
My bet is that Wagner puts up a very good year, statistically, yet leaves Braves fans with the same mixed emotions that Phillies fans and Mets fans had about him. That sense, justified or not, that he comes up small in the biggest moments.
Speaking of which, I looked up Wagner's career splits, out of curiosity. September/October his his fourth best month (or, his third worst). I would've bet, based on watching him the past few years, it was his worst.
--The Giants didn't offer arbitration to Bengie Molina, after all; they had sent strong signals at the GMs' meetings that they would do so. Which means that they had to be concerned Molina would accept and go for a strong, one-year deal.
Now, if the Mets sign Molina, they at least won't have to give up a draft pick, which makes the concept less offensive. I agree with what most Mets fans seem to think, though: To pay a lot of money _ not to mention a possible, two-year commitment _ for Molina would be silly. They'd be far better off looking into cheaper options. As we examined here a couple of days ago, the Mets' catching was far from their biggest headache last year.
--Here are all of the arbitration decisions. Of the Type As, I'd venture that Colorado's Rafael Betancourt is the most likely to accept. He surely saw the difficulty that Juan Cruz, last year's Type A setup man, had in finding work, because teams were reluctant to give up a draft pick for a guy who didn't close.
Of the Type Bs, I'd guess that 2008 Yankees teammates Carl Pavano and Ivan Rodriguez, as well as Tampa Bay's Brian Shouse, are the most likely to accept. And there could easily be more. Players and agents are spooked from last winter and don't want to lose the game of musical chairs. When you accept arbitrtation, it's a non-guaranteed contract, but the union will file a grievance if the team cuts you for financial reasons.
--Dennis Gilbert has emerged as the leading candidate to purchase the Rangers, Jon Heyman reports. If this works out, that would mean that two of the most prominent agents in baseball history - Gilbert and Jeff Moorad (Padres) - run big-league clubs. It's only a matter of time before Scott Boras purchases the Dodgers.
Have a great day.