(Postscript: Wagner agreed to a deal with the Atlanta Braves barely hours after this was posted. Must have been an exciting dinner.)
It sure would be fascinating to sit at the Wagner dinner table this week as Billy and his family decide whether or not to accept an offer of salary arbitration from the Red Sox and thus agree to return to Boston as a middle reliever next season. (The deadline is Monday.)
On the one hand, it's unlikely Wagner -- especially with the Type A tag attached to him -- is going to earn more than he'll be awarded by a panel of arbitrators in January. On the other hand, Wagner ranks sixth all-time in saves with 385 and has made clear that getting to 400 is an important milestone both for him and for his Hall of Fame aspirations.
(The Hall of Fame is a legitimate consideration as Wagner is thinking about his individual statistics. His fantasy baseball team is not.)
The hard-throwing lefty earned $10.5 million last season. The option the Red Sox agreed not to exercise was worth $8 million. It's hard to believe a salary arbitration award would be less than $10 million.
It's equally hard to believe, though, that the 38-year-old Wagner is going to get $10 million a year on the open market. Among the teams that might be interested:
* Atlanta: The Braves offered arbitration on Tuesday to relievers Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano but might want to upgrade to someone a little more overpowering. The price tag for Wagner, though, might take the Braves out of the bidding.
* Baltimore: This might have more to do with how the Orioles view their young pitchers than anything else. If the Orioles believe they're ready to make a Tampa Bay-type run in the East, a closer might be the finishing touch -- but Wagner would have be convinced of that, too.
* Detroit: Fernando Rodney is on the open market and has been as erratic as it gets, but it's not likely the cost-cutting Tigers are going to pay for someone like Wagner.
* Texas: No one seized the ninth-inning job for the Rangers last season, but like the Orioles, a closer might be the last piece of the puzzle if they're to make the leap next season.