I’m not normally a fan of signing relievers on the free-agent market. So, when I woke up to the report of the Braves signing Billy Wagner my first feeling was concern. However, I think the terms of the deal are quite reasonable. It’s a one-year, $7 million deal, with a $6.5 million option for a second year that vests if Wagner finishes 50 games.
I estimate Wagner to be worth about $8 million per year to an average team.* Given that the Braves look to be an above-average team Wagner’s value to the Braves is a little higher. Wagner is a Type A free agent, so the Braves will lose a first-round draft pick. With the lost pick and his additional injury risks, Wagner appears to be worth close to what the Braves are giving up to sign him. It’s a good early move by the Braves. If for some reason the season goes poorly, Wagner can easily be moved to a contender.
*If you’re familiar with my past estimates of relievers, you will notice this value is higher than what I have estimated top closers to be worth in the past. I have adjusted the way that I value relievers to account for pitching in more valuable spots.