Last night, as the 8th inning rolled around at Citi Field, the oh-so-familiar guitar strains of “Enter Sandman” echoed across the stadium. The crowd around me roared, and for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, Billy Wagner jogged out to the mound in a Mets uniform.
In this one inning of work, Wagner dazzled. He hit 96 on the Mets’ gun and 95.4 according to Pitch F/X. He threw his change-up with a velocity separation of around 8-9 miles per hour, and his slider had bite. He also threw all three pitches for strikes and struck out two Braves while facing the heart of the Atlanta lineup.
For the Mets, Wanger puts them in a tough spot. The team still owes him around $2.5 million this year and holds a $10 million club option with a $1 million buyout. Because they have Francisco Rodriguez locked up for the next few years, the team will not pick up that option. Because they are a little tight on cash, the team would love to unload Wagner, and the market for hard-throwing lefty relievers is always robust.
Early rumors indicate that the Rays and Marlins are interested in Wagner. Jayson Stark notes, however, that the price tag — in essence, $2.5 million for one month — is far too high for those two teams on the fringes of playoff contention. If the Mets’ goal is to off-load salary by trading Wagner, the team won’t be inclined to ship money down to Florida.
Meanwhile, according to reports, Wagner has been placed on waivers that are set to expire today at 1 p.m. If the right team claims him, Wagner is willing to waive his no-trade clause. “You want to win a World Series, that’s for sure,” Wagner said. “If I’m fortunate enough to be asked to come and join a team that has a great chance to win the World Series, that is something that definitely I’d think about.”
So which team, searching for a lefty reliever and with cash to spend, may be World Series-bound this year? Well, one would have to look only about 11 miles away from Citi Field to find a trading partner for the Mets. Brian Cashman, pick up the phone.
This is, of course, not a novel idea. Mike Silva suggested a Juan Miranda-for-Billy Wagner swap and Bart Hubbuch has been pushing a trade to the Bronx as well. The Yankees could be, to borrow a phrase, a perfect fit for Billy Wagner. They have the cash, the potential mid-level prospect and the need for him. Let’s make a deal.