Billy Wagner retired after the 2010 season despite coming off one of his best years, saving 37 games with a 1.43 ERA in 69 innings for the Braves, and Mark Hale of the New York Post reports that the Phillies recently tried to talk the now 40-year-old left-hander out of retirement.
Wagner declined, telling them: “I do not have an itch. I’m done. I’ve got a major role on a JV baseball team. I’m JV baseball coach.”
According to Hale the contact with Wagner came shortly after the regular season and well before the Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million deal.
It’s unclear if the Phillies viewed Wagner as a closer or as a setup man, but the best left-handed reliever of all time hinted that several other teams also reached out to him during the season. His agent had been instructed to turn down all offers.
Wagner pitched for the Phillies in 2004 and 2005, throwing 126 innings with a 1.86 ERA and 59 saves.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.