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Wagner to the Mets

Billy Wagner signed with the Mets, as expected, to a large deal, as expected.

Using similar players from Baseball Reference, I could make comparisons for how players with similar statistics aged and performed in the twilight years of their career. For Wagner, though, I don't think this is a good strategy. Wagner's style and size (a 5'11" lefty who throws 100+ mph) is virtually unprecedented, in my mind. I can't compare that to Mo Rivera or any of the other similar guys on his list.

So I won't make projections about his future besides to say that I would be very surprised if Year 4 of this deal looks a lot like Year 1, especially in the K/PA department.

Unquestionably, the Mets overpaid for Wagner, even more so than the Blue Jays did for Ryan. The Mets, right now, are taking advantage of some of the projected revenue from the new network. People will accuse the Mets of spending a lot, but, in reality, they're actually just reinvesting some money that came off the books last year.

  • Did not resign Piazza (-$15 million).
  • Traded Cameron for Nady (-$6 million).
  • Did not renew Looper's option (-$3.5 million).
  • Mientkiewicz is gone, Stanton's contract is gone, Cedeno's contract is gone.
  • Added in Delgado and Wagner (on average, $24 million per year).
They're actually a little lower in payroll than they were last year. Overall, the Met payroll will probably rise about $10 million for the year, considering that they'll probably be making a couple more high-profile moves, but, so far, they've been pretty responsible with their wads of cash.

Wagner's got a couple of things going for him: he's moving out of a hitter's park in Philly, although it didn't hurt his peripherals all that much. He's also further removed from his 2004 injury.

What about Prospectus' WXRL? (ML rank in parenthesis)

  1. 3.757 (16)
  2. 6.548 (3)
  3. 3.146 (22) in fewer innings than everyone else.
  4. 3.781 (18)
Where was Looper in those days?
  1. 3.646
  2. -.168
WXRL is a context-based stat. Like WPA, it is not generally predictive of a player's future performance in similar situations. That said, Wagner's been one of the league's better relievers by this stat for the last few years. I can't imagine that it'll drop off like Looper's did last  season.

Wagner will probably be worth 4 more wins than Looper was this year.

Three other things:

  1. Many people will rightfully criticize the closer model and say that there's no way that 70 innings is worth that much money. The nature of the game, though, indicates that you use a closer and pay him a lot of money, almost at the level of starting pitchers. In that sense, the Wagner contract is unjustifiable.
  2. Relative to what other closers are paid, Wagner's at the top of the heap. He's also a Top 5 closer, so, in this sense, it's a good deal.
  3. Everything else aside, the no-trade clause and guaranteed fourth year will make this one look pretty bad in a couple of years.
Flags fly forever, they say. And Wagner + Delgado + the next few old guys they sign make the Mets legitimate pennant contenders. The rough end of this contract is a couple of years away, and it might not even be that bad. Either way, this is a huge contract, another one that probably isn't worth the money. The Mets will be paying for all of these moves in a few years, but hell, the Yankees are doing that now and they just made the playoffs.

"Shut up. I told you to shut up. If I want to spend $4 million on a ballplayer, I will. If I want to spend $12 million, I will. ... It's my goddamn money and I'll do what I want." - Ray Kroc, via Cot's Baseball Contracts. Right?

Interesting trivia: They say that G/F ratio is the most stable pitching stat, and Wagner embodies that quite well:

2001 - 1.19
2002 - 1.10
2003 - 1.14
2004 - 1.17
2005 - 1.15

That's consistency.