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.