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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 12-02-2009, 05:28 PM Thread Starter
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Braves Sign Billy Wagner

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ATLANTA -- The Braves have reached an agreement that makes Billy Wagner their new closer.


The Braves announced on Wednesday that they signed Wagner to a one-year deal that includes a club option for the 2011 season. An afternoon press conference has been scheduled at Turner Field.

Wagner, who passed his physical in Atlanta on Wednesday morning, will make $7 million during the 2010 season. His $6.5 million option for the 2011 season will vest if he finishes 50 games next year.

With Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano expected to exit via free agency this offseason, the Braves made Wagner their primary target to fill the closer's role that the aforementioned relievers shared this past season.

Wagner comes to Atlanta with the intent to enhance his already impressive credentials. The 38-year-old reliever's 385 career saves rank sixth on Major League Baseball's all-time list. He stands 39 saves shy of matching the record that John Franco set for left-handed closers.

Interest in Wagner grew when he made a successful return from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery during the final two months of last season. In 17 combined appearances with the Mets and Red Sox, he posted a 1.72 ERA, limited opponents to a .174 average and recorded 26 strikeouts over 15 2/3 innings.

One American League scout who watched Wagner pitch during the regular season's final weekend said he was convinced the veteran hurler was ready to once again be the top-flight closer that he had previously proven to be with the Astros, Phillies and Mets.

During a 12-season span beginning in 1997 -- the year he began serving as the Astros' full-time closer -- Wagner posted a 2.40 ERA and converted 376 of his 434 save opportunities. Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman were the only Major Leaguers to record more saves during this span.

Wagner established himself as one of the game's top closers in 1999, when he posted a career-best 1.57 ERA and converted 39 of 42 save opportunities for Houston.

After blowing nine of his 15 save opportunities one year later, he proceeded to post a 2.22 ERA and convert 251 of the 277 opportunities he was presented with over the course of the next seven seasons.

Because Wagner is a Type A free agent who was offered arbitration, the Red Sox will gain the first-round selection that the Braves had been slotted to make in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

But with Gonzalez and Soriano also standing as Type A free agents, the Braves are in position to gain the first-round picks currently slotted to the clubs that could end up signing these relievers, who were both offered arbitration on Tuesday.
Braves get a new closer in Wagner | braves.com: News



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