The Braves released Billy Wagner from their 40-man roster Wednesday, resolving a paper-pushing issue that’s been looming since the 39-year-old closer announced he was retiring at the end of last season.
The issue was complicated, Braves general manager Frank Wren said, because Wagner was in the middle of a multi-year contract when he decided to retire. He had a $6.5 million option for 2011 that automatically vested.
Had the Braves put Wagner on the voluntary retired list, he would have been tied to the Braves for the rest of his career. Had the Braves simply released him, they’d have been on the hook for his 2011 salary.
So the agreement they reached Wednesday allowed for the Braves to release him, Wagner to agree to waive his 2011 salary, the Braves to retain exclusive rights to Wagner until the end of the 2011 season and for Wagner to be granted the right to free agency in 2012, if he chooses to come out of retirement.
Wren said Wagner has no immediate plans to come out of retirement, but the players’ union wanted to set a different precedent in these cases.
When asked if this meant Wagner was entertaining any thoughts of coming out of retirement, Wren said: “No, not at all. It hasn’t changed anything. He’s perfectly happy doing what he’s doing, going to Little League games, and being a part of the family. He’s very content.”
Wren said that in effect for the last two months he’s been negotiating with the union.
“At the end (Wagner) gets what is really desired, I think, mostly by the union,” Wren said. “That at the end of this season, he’s a pure free agent….With these special class of players, it’s more of a union issue. They’re protecting their constituents in this special class.”
Wagner retired as the fifth all-time saves leader with 422. Wren said the Kansas City Royals went through a similar situation in January when Gil Meche retired with $12 million left on his contract.