Time To Assess the Billy Wagner Trade

It feels like decades ago, but it was only a year and a few months past that the Mets traded Billy Wagner to the Red Sox in return for Chris “The Animal” Carter and a slugging youngster named Eddie Lora.

At the time, the deal appeared to be a salary dump by the Mets, who were eager to rid themselves of the $3.7M owed to Wagner.

Check that; it didn’t just “appear” to be a salary dump — it clearly was.

While the Mets relieved themselves of nearly four million dollars, they also missed out on the two first-round draft picks Wagner would have netted when he signed with Braves during the offseason. Instead, the Red Sox enjoyed making those choices — getting the Braves’ #20 overall pick as well as a sandwich pick (#39). Ironically, the Red Sox also would have usurped the Mets’ #1 pick after losing Jason Bay, had the Mets not been so awful in 2009 and therefore had that pick protected (instead the Bosox got another sandwich pick, #36 overall).

Missing out on those draft picks wouldn’t have been a big deal, so long as the Mets received young players with promise. Chris Carter proved to be promising with the bat, but unable to find a defensive position. As a result, he’s been non-tendered and we don’t yet know whether he’ll re-sign with the Mets on a “split contract” or sign with someone else. Considering his age, inability to play the field well, and the Mets’ commitment to Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, and other youngsters who play his positions, one would think Carter will move on — ideally to an American League team where he can DH.

Assuming that Carter doesn’t return, the Mets can measure the success of the Wagner deal by Eddie Lora. Uh-oh … it appears that Lora very quietly, and voluntarily, retired in August after hitting .088 in 12 games at Kingsport (Rookie League). Yes, RETIRED — at age 22.

So in the end, the Red Sox used Wagner for lights-out relief that assisted in their gaining a Wild Card berth, then picked up first-rounders Kolbrin Vitek — a natural second baseman who was hitting so well they moved him to third base to speed his ascent to the big leagues (where 2B is blocked by Dustin Pedroia) — and Anthony Ranaudo, a NJ native who was considered one of the top pitching prospects in the draft before suffering an elbow injury; Ranaudo dominated the Cape Cod League during the summer, proving his health and was considered one of the Bosox’ top pitching prospects the minute he signed in August.

Meanwhile, the Mets were able to save $3.7M … as well as the bonuses on those first-rounders.

Of course, we don’t know if the Mets would have made the same choices with those draft picks. Even if they did, we don’t know if they would have spent the many millions required to sign them both, as well as their own #1 pick Matt Harvey. Considering that the team was eager to rid themselves of Wagner’s contract — well, you can draw your own conclusions.

And we wonder why the Mets’ farm system is barren.

Luckily, we have a new regime in the front office that hopefully will not make such boneheaded, financially driven decisions.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. gary s. December 4, 2010 at 7:55 pm
    This is an indictment of the minaya/jeff wilpon front office.In retrospect we were probably lucky to finish 4th last year,Absolutely clueless !!
  2. Paul December 4, 2010 at 7:57 pm
    Considering how well the Mets have drafted, they probably were smart to make the deal and save the money.
  3. mic December 5, 2010 at 10:14 am
    Its kinda moot to throw stones now that the page has turned, or even blame Omar period. NOTE to Joe….remember when we dumped Alomar for ROYCE RING..and Armando Benitez for ? …different GM same OWNER….

    As for drafting; the mets do BETTER with multi pick years…ie Ike, Reese Havens and Brad Holt. Further considering how Wags performed last yr …his passion for the game and his overall tenure he SHOULD have been retained or left with draft picks which might not have been a 1st rnder but a 36th pick would have been nice. Right now the point is there IS nothing to show in compensation.

    I also contend that the post Willie yrs stink of poor GM decisions not typical of Omar.

    • Joe Janish December 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm
      Mic, it’s not moot if people can look back at history and learn from it. It’s also not moot in that it is a prime example of why the Mets are in the situation they are in now, and why it’s a good thing they cleared out the decision-makers.

      I get you on the Alomar, Benitez, Jeromy Burnitz deals of yesteryear — it does seem to be a philosophy driven from above. In which case it’s definitely not moot and in fact something to shout from the rooftops in the hopes that ownership changes their ways.

      However, I’m not sure about “poor GM decisions not typical of Omar”. What IS typical of Omar? He made horrible deals while with the Expos and his history with the Mets was similarly bad.

      The team made the playoffs once during Omar’s tenure, despite annually having among the top payrolls in MLB. Additionally, upon Omar’s departure, the farm system was almost completely barren — the team couldn’t win “now” and wasn’t built to win in the future. If you don’t judge a GM on his ability to manage assets, then how do you judge him?

  4. frank December 5, 2010 at 3:08 pm
    You know, there were reports of an agreement between the Wilpons and Wagner to NOT offer him arbitration. No arbitration means no chance at draft picks. The best haul the Mets could get, they got.

    Through collapses, endless PR blunders and inevitable disappointment, reading this sour grapes s**t from the beat reporters, columnists and the self-styled experts remains the worst part of being a Mets fan.

    • Joe Janish December 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm
      If that indeed was an agreement then thank you for pointing out yet another dumb decision by the Wilpons.

      “reading this sour grapes s–t” is the “worst part” ? Huh. For me the worst part is watching the team fail miserably year after year.

  5. mic December 5, 2010 at 9:24 pm
    Jaded? Omar had 28 owners in Montreal/Puerto Rico and kept the organization alive long enuff for them to be nats. In coming to NY his belief was that the Wilpons woulds stand back in the post Kazmir dust. But that did not happen.

    But since no GM is perfect i will note a couple of back breakers…..

    1. Pedro= damaged goods
    2. JJ Putz was a 3 way that did not come thru
    3. Standing pat 2 yrs in row when 1 win would have brought playoffs.

  6. Walnutz15 December 6, 2010 at 8:54 am
    Ahh, the deal that sent me over the edge. This was all Wilpon-related…..over a few million bucks.

    Minaya handed out/made plenty of bad deals throughout his tenure; but it’s hard to blame him much here……unless he could have somehow finagled better prospects out of the deal.

    He was likely under some pressure from up-above, though. Needed to cash-in during a terrible period of baseball at Citi, when no one was showing for their garbage product.