Billy Wagner earns save No. 400

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Edwin Jackson’s no-hitter overshadowed another significant accomplishment on Friday night, as Billy Wagner notched his 400th career save, striking out the side in a 3-1 win over the Tigers.

Wagner is just the fifth player in baseball history to eclipse the 400-save plateau. The 38-year-old is now 24 saves behind John Franco for the most saves ever by a left-handed pitcher. 

Here’s what Wagner told David O’Brien of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

“When you go out there and pitch for 14 years, you start to put some
numbers together. This is just a credit to the hard work and all the
people behind me that always made the plays and made me look good.”

Wagner has announced his intention to retire after 2010, despite a $6.5 million vesting option for 2011 if he finishes 50 games this season. He has already finished 30 games and it’s not even July. After Friday’s game, Braves skipper Bobby Cox jokingly suggested that Wags should think about sticking around.  

“He’s been dominating all season long, and maybe
we can talk him out of retirement.”

Wagner, who underwent Tommy John surgery in September of 2008, is currently averaging 95.8 mph on his fastball, his highest velocity since the 2006 season. The southpaw has a 1.19 ERA, 15 saves and a 46/12 K/BB ratio over his first 30 1/3 innings, just the latest addition to a resume that is completely underrated in the scope of baseball history. He’s just as dominant as ever. 

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.