Billy Wagner hinted yesterday that he’s leaning toward retirement, saying “I don’t plan on talking to nobody” when asked where he’ll pitch next season.
Wagner was dominant after coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery, posting a 1.72 ERA, 26/8 K/BB ratio, and .154 opponents’ batting average in 15.2 innings, but gave up two runs in Game 3 of the ALDS as the Red Sox were swept out of the playoffs.
As part of the trade that sent Wagner from New York to Boston the Red Sox agreed not to exercise his $8.8 million option for next season, with the assumption being that he wanted to pursue closing elsewhere. Wagner is just 15 saves from reaching 400 for his career, which is a mark topped by only Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, and John Franco.
Wagner called the 400-save milestone “just dust in the wind” yesterday, but Mike Puma of the New York Post quotes “a source close to the situation” as saying that he “might just need a cooling period before deciding to pitch in 2010.” That seemingly makes more sense than battling all the way back from Tommy John surgery to reestablish himself as an elite reliever only to call it quits 15 innings later.
Wagner’s awesomely named agent, Bean Stringfellow, seems to think that he’ll be pitching in 2010, saying the following to the Boston Herald this morning:
Those comments probably came right after the Red Sox lost, so I’d bet they were said in the heat of the moment, when he was very frustrated. That’s probably not the best time to take comments like that as gospel. That’s not what Billy has told me or indicated to me about next year. That’s not to say that he couldn’t, but he’s given me no indication that he will retire. Certainly I am moving towards him playing next year.
Wagner is a Type A free agent, so retiring rather than signing elsewhere would cost the Red Sox a pair of compensatory draft picks. And more importantly the best left-handed reliever of all time showed that he has plenty of gas left in the tank at the age of 37.