Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SweetSpot [Print without images]

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Why do Red Sox want Billy Wagner?


Well, the Red Sox finally got their man. But why did they want their man? Before Billy Wagner officially joined the Sox, here's what Nick Cafardo wrote: Relief pitchers don't "work together," but otherwise Papelbon's got a pretty good point. The Red Sox "could use a setup man"? Their relievers have the best ERA (3.64) in the American League, and they have four relievers with at least 45 innings and an ERA between 2.04 (Papelbon) and 2.80 (Takashi Saito). Daniel Bard's ERA (3.76) isn't brilliant, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.06) is the best in the bullpen. Nearly every other team in the American League would kill for the Red Sox' bullpen.

So why is the front office devoting so much time and energy to Billy Wagner? Because they can, and he's there. For the same reasons, basically, that they devoted so much time and energy to John Smoltz. When you're the Red Sox and you can outspend (almost) everyone and out-think everyone, apparently your attention sometimes turns to the shiniest object in the store, even if you've already got three of them at home.

It's all a bit much for a relief pitcher who probably won't pitch even a dozen innings the rest of the way. The only excuse I can imagine is the Red Sox think that a dozen down the stretch might lead to another half-dozen or so in October.

Wait a minute. I can imagine one more excuse. Might the Red Sox also be interested in Wagner because if they offer him arbitration this winter and he declines, they might pick up a couple of draft picks next summer? This possibility might almost push the deal over the top for me, except that Wagner will be coming off an injury and might happily accept arbitration rather than hit the free-agent market. Something else to think about, anyway.