I won’t be the first to mention this, nor will I be the last, but the Billy Wagner situation just highlights the lack of foresight in the Mets front office. Back in August, Wagner looked like a good bet to be worth Type A compensation in free agency, should he sign with another ballclub. That means if Wagner signed with another team as a free agent, his former team would be entitled to a first round draft pick (or lower, depending on a number of factors) plus a compensation pick between the first and second rounds. At the very least, the Mets would pick up a compensation pick for losing Wagner, which would make the blow of losing their second rounder by signing a Type A free agent (such as Matt Holliday) a little easier to take.
Instead, the Mets traded Wags to the Red Sox for Chris Carter and Eddie Lora. At best, Carter projects to be a Daniel Murphy-type with maybe a little more power, a fringe-average regular with no real position. He’s even left-handed, so they can’t platoon Carter with Murphy at first base. As a 20 year old in the Rookie League, Eddie Lora did not distinguish himself in any way, and would seem to be an unlikely bet to ever play a single game in the major leagues. They also saved $3.2 million, chump change for a New York based sports team.
In return for Carter, Lora, and $3.2 million, the Red Sox got Wagner for six weeks, where he produced an excellent (for such a short time period) 0.4 WAR, worth approximately $1.9 million in value to the Red Sox, and now two high draft picks. In essence, the Red Sox spent $1.3 million to buy two draft picks, at least one of which should be in the top 50, and if the Braves fail to sign another Type A free agent, one of those picks would be in the top 20. That would mean they could sign potentially two Type A free agents and still pick higher in the first and second rounds than they were originally scheduled, and that doesn’t even include receiving compensation if Jason Bay were to sign elsewhere.
These are the types of moves the Mets should be making. They should be willing to take the risk of Wagner coming back if he accepted arbitration, which he wouldn’t have. He made quite clear his desire to close next year, as he had tried to force the Red Sox to not offer him arbitration and wanted assurance that his option year would not be picked up by the Sox, as he did not want to set up for Jonathan Papelbon. This was essentially two free picks, and for a team that is often criticized (sometimes unfairly) for ignoring their minor league system, the return value could have been huge for the team.
Instead, they settled for a little bit of payroll relief and two minor leaguers unlikely to ever become stars. You can’t even compare the Mets to the Red Sox anymore, because the two teams are playing completely different games. It’s situations like this that just so clearly demonstrate that teams like the Red Sox are playing chess while the Mets are playing peek-a-boo.