All winter long, we’ve been asked why closer Billy Wagner was still on the Braves’ 40-man roster, after saying he retired following the 2010 season and not indicating any other intentions since.
All winter long, we’ve been told by team officials and Wagner’s agent that the left-hander is retired, period. The Braves have no plans to have him back, even though his $6.5 million option vested with 50 games finished in 2010. Wagner said from early last season that he would leave that on the table if it vested, that he was retired and that was that.
He never wavered in that throughout the season, to the point where teammates eventually stopped pleading with him to return, because they knew he was serious about shutting it down, calling it a career and going home to his wife and four children on their Virginia farm after the 2010 season and postseason. There is a $250,000 buyout of that option, but the Braves don’t pay it if he retires (or even if he doesn’t formally retire, but opts simply not to show up for spring training).
His agent has told Braves general manager Frank Wren a couple of times this winter that Wagner’s retirement paperwork would be filed and his retirement official. It’s still not official, but could be any day. There has been no indication from anyone involved that Wagner has reconsidered and is secretly getting ready to pitch again.
Here is a fairly typical question I’ve received via e-mail or my blog. This one came on the blog:
I know you are tired of this question but I think it’s a valid question to keep asking. Billy Wagner is still on the 40 man roster despite pitchers/catchers reporting next week. I find it hard to believe that the Braves don’t need that spot for something. They went thru the Rule 5 draft and lost LHP Scott Diamond to the Twins when theoretically they could have protected Diamond by adding him to the spot Wagner is holding at the moment. — Chopper
And here is my response, breaking it down by section:
I know you are tired of this question but I think it’s a valid question to keep asking. Billy Wagner is still on the 40 man roster despite pitchers/catchers reporting next week.
You certainly are entitled to keep asking as often as you like. All I can tell you is, Wren told me last week (when baseball writer Ken Rosenthal brought it up) that nothing had changed, no plans for Wagner to be back, etc. Wagner has indicated to no one with the Braves that he plans to pitch, and told a Richmond reporter after speaking at a hot-stove banquet there two weeks ago that he had no plans to do anything but stay retired.
I find it hard to believe that the Braves don’t need that spot for something.
Like what? Why would they want to have a full 40-man roster entering spring training, when they almost always need a space or two at the end of spring to add a non-roster invitee who wins a spot on the opening day roster? What would they use the spot for right now?
They went thru the Rule 5 draft and lost LHP Scott Diamond to the Twins when theoretically they could have protected Diamond by adding him to the spot Wagner is holding at the moment.
This specific question has been addressed several times since the Rule 5 draft. Even if the Braves had a spot open on the 40-man, Wren specifically said they would not have protected Diamond, and that they actually had a better shot at getting him later than they would’ve if they had protected him. Here’s the reasoning: If the Braves had protected Diamond before the Rule 5, he would almost certainly have been one of the first players dropped from the 40-man at the end of spring training when the Braves needed the roster spot for a player who might help them this season (Diamond, they determined, was/is not ready to help them this season. They don’t need him this season.)
In not protecting him, they lost him to Minnesota in the Rule 5 draft. The Twins now must keep him on their 25-man (major league) roster the entire 2011 season. There’s a good chance they won’t be able to do that, that they will decide they can’t carry him and need to use that roster spot for a player ready to help the Twins win now. In that case, they must offer him back to the Braves for $25,000, half of the claiming price the Twins paid. If that happens, the Braves would do it and take him back, then wouldn’t have to protect him but rather could simply send him to the minor leagues, since he’s got minor league options. They wouldn’t need to add him to their 40-man and could just let him continue developing in the minors for the season, then could protect him next winter if he’s ready.
Looking at the 40-man roster on atlantabraves.com reveals 41 names (including Wagner), so somebody is not on the 40 man roster that they are showing.
This one was explained a few weeks back, but you might’ve missed it since it was buried in a blog or the comments section, I’m not sure which. Anyway, reliever Jairo Asencio does not count on the 40-man roster because he wasn’t reinstated from the restricted list until after the 2010 season. He’s the pitcher who formerly went by the name Luis Valdez, which was bogus. He was on the restricted list after having visa issues that prevented him from getting out of the Dominican last year.
I just think at this late date it is significant that Wagner has not left the roster. If the Braves know he’s retiring for sure, why do they need to wait for him to file paperwork to free up the spot?
Because a team can’t “retire” a player; only a player can retire, by filing his paperwork. He’s on the roster because he had a vesting option that vested. So until he’s officially retired, the Braves can’t just drop him without paying a $250,000 buyout of that option. But if/when he doesn’t show up for spring training, that point will be moot and they won’t have to pay that buyout, regardless.