Red Sox Acquire Billy Wagner For Stretch Run

The Deal
Not many pitchers with two innings of work on the season would be viewed as desirable trade commodities. But Billy Wagner’s situation is hardly typical. The Mets’ ace lefty reliever, who ranks sixth on the all-time saves list with 385, missed the majority of the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery that he had performed last August.

With the 38-year-old Wagner appearing at or near full strength, the Red Sox claimed him on waivers and subsequently traded for him, shipping a pair of players to be named to the Mets. Additionally, Boston assumes the remainder of Wagner’s salary, which amounts to about $3.5 million. To facilitate the trade, Wagner waived his no-trade clause, but not before a bit of public indecision. In exchange, Boston agreed to decline Wagner’s $8 million club option for 2010, though they retain the option to offer him arbitration to reap draft pick compensation if he signs with another team.

UPDATE: The Red Sox reportedly will send 26-year-old Chris Carter, a corner outfielder/first baseman with Triple-A Pawtucket, to the Mets as one of the players to be named (Aug. 26).

UPDATE: Because he is a member of Boston’s 40-man roster, Carter first had to clear waivers in order to be traded before the end of the season. The Yankees reportedly put in a claim on Carter, forcing the Red Sox to pull him back from waivers and wait until the conclusion of the season to trade him to the Mets. The move appears to be a bit of gamesmanship on the part of the Yankees, who effectively have capped Boston’s roster at 39—assuming they do not have plans to play Carter in September (he has just five big league at-bats this season). The Yankees’ claim also prevents the Mets from getting an early look at Carter this September (Aug. 27).

UPDATE: The Red Sox sent 20-year-old Rookie-ball first baseman Eddie Lora to the Mets as one of the (official) players to be named (Sept. 5).

UPDATE: Carter officially joined the Mets organization (Oct. 7).

The Young Players
A lefthanded batter, Carter has spent the past four seasons at the Triple-A level, batting .301/.369/.488 in 2,161 plate appearances. He’s shown modest power, topping out at 24 homers and 40 doubles in different seasons, and a strong walk-to-strikeout ratio of 320-to-400. While Carter isn’t a natural athlete, and he’s a defensive liability wherever he plays, he’s the type of offensive player who can help a club in a supplemental role.

At the time of the trade, Carter was batting .279/.340/.439 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs in 106 games. He enjoyed his best season in ’08, when he batted .300/.356/.515 in 470 at-bats for Pawtucket and made the International League all-star team. (He homered in the game.) The Diamondbacks drafted him out of Stanford with a 17th-round pick in ’04, and then shipped him to the Red Sox in ’07 as part of a three-team deal that landed Emiliano Fruto in Arizona and Wily Mo Pena in Washington. Carter has one minor league option remaining. 

Lora completed his third pro season—and his first spent entirely in the U.S.—since signing as an international free agent with Boston in July ’06. He batted .222/.287/.414 with three home runs in 34 games for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. A 6-foot-2, 215-pound switch-hitter, Lora possesses plus raw power, but he’s a long way from harnessing it on a consistent basis.

Quick Take
Wagner had been effective in his two post-surgery outings for the Mets this August, throwing two hitless innings while striking out four and walking one. More significantly, he could go get his trademark mid-90s velocity and snap off an occasional plus-plus slider, indicating he could be of use to the Red Sox as they chase down the AL wild card. Recovery time will be the biggest concern with Wagner. At 38 and coming off major elbow surgery, he may be available only once every two or three days this September. Boston’s bullpen appears to be deep enough—and they have a second lefty in Hideki Okajima—to cover for Wagner’s irregular availability.

With the recent injury to Johan Santana, New York has lost every significant player on its roster, save for Francisco Rodriguez and Mike Pelfrey, to the disabled list at one time or another this season. As such, keeping Wagner around for the final month of his four-year deal made little sense for the club, especially in light of public statements that they did not intend to offer him arbitration. The salary relief alone made it a worthwhile transaction.

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