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Wagner Could Have Been a Red Sox Closer

08.30.09 at 3:29 am ET

Billy Wagner was not brought to Boston to be a closer’€¦this time.

Since joining the Sox on Thursday, the left-hander has sat idly in the bullpen while watching Jonathan Papelbon put the finishing touches on a pair of victories. Wagner, in his ongoing recovery from Tommy John surgery, is expected to serve as part of the setup crew in front of Papelbon, rather than the man to whom the middle relief innings flow.

But that doesn’€™t mean that the idea of having Wagner as a game-ending presence hasn’€™t occurred to the Sox. Wagner was last a free agent following the 2005 season, following three years with the Phillies. The Sox’€™ ninth-inning was somewhat unsettled, since Keith Foulke was coming off of a season that had been mostly lost to injuries, and Mike Timlin ‘€“ despite a serviceable couple of months as a fill-in closer ‘€“ was not viewed as ideally suited for the role.

And so the Sox talked with Wagner’€™s representatives in general terms about the possibility of bringing the left-hander to Boston to stabilize the ninth. Wagner was intrigued by the Red Sox, but the conversations never advanced beyond the preliminary stages, since the Mets blew away not only any other potential offer, but also Wagner’€™s expectations.

Wagner said that he was hunting for a three-year, $30 million deal following the 2005 season, and that he imagined that at the end of that deal, he would be ready to retire. But the Mets, according to the pitcher, blew him away by saying they were willing to go as many to as five years.

The deal ended up being a guaranteed four-year, $43 million agreement with an option that could increase its value to as much as $50 million over five years. Such an offer was beyond what the Sox ‘€“ or any other team ‘€“ was willing to contemplate, and so Wagner ended up with the Mets.

The Sox emerged from spring training with Keith Foulke as their closer, but in the season’€™s third game, they summoned Papelbon to blow away the Rangers in the ninth inning for his first career save.

Papelbon has since added 144 more saves for the Sox, and is now the unquestioned ninth-inning force for the Sox. Wagner, who saved 101 games for the Mets before blowing out his elbow towards the end of last year, now joins him in Boston in a role that is quite different from the one that he and the Sox discussed nearly four years earlier.

Read More: billy wagner, Closer, Jonathan Papelbon,
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