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Wagner gets $7m from Braves

Free agent loss nets 2 draft picks

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / December 3, 2009

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Not long after the Red Sox offered arbitration to Billy Wagner, the reliever they picked up in August from the Mets, they found themselves in exactly the situation they desired. While they would have worked around it had Wagner accepted arbitration, the two draft picks netted by the departure of the pitcher represent an even better outcome for the team.

Wagner signed a one-year deal with the Braves yesterday for $7 million, with a $6.5 million vesting option for a second year. Wagner will get a chance to close in Atlanta, something he would not have had in Boston. The lefthander is just 15 saves shy of 400 and would clearly like to surpass the mark.

The Sox were not shocked by the signing - they expected Wagner to leave, according to a team source - but were a little surprised by the timing. Word broke less than 12 hours after the Sox had announced their decision to offer him arbitration. The signing might have had more to do with the Braves’ own relievers, after Atlanta offered arbitration to both Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano.

Wagner threw 13 2/3 innings in 15 games with the Sox, with a 1.98 ERA and 22 strikeouts. The Sox used him gingerly in the wake of his return from Tommy John surgery.

Wagner’s signing has reverberations beyond the Sox’ bullpen. By losing a Type A free agent, the Red Sox will receive two draft picks as compensation, one of which will likely be the Braves’ 20th pick in the first round. That could cushion the blow should the Sox sign a Type A of their own, such as Marco Scutaro. The shortstop was offered arbitration by the Blue Jays.

McLeod joining Hoyer
The Sox are losing another integral piece of their front office. Director of amateur scouting Jason McLeod is heading to San Diego to join former Sox assistant general manager Jed Hoyer. McLeod will be Hoyer’s assistant GM.

“Jason is a close friend and a very talented scouting director who made significant contributions here,’’ Sox general manager Theo Epstein wrote in an e-mail. “He’s going home to work for the Padres and I have no doubt he’ll do great things there as he takes the next step in his career.’’

Hoyer left to replace Kevin Towers as GM of the Padres earlier this offseason. His first attempt to wrest a member of the Sox front office away was thwarted when director of player development Mike Hazen decided to remain.

But Hoyer was successful with McLeod, who has had a run of impressive drafts with the Sox, beginning with the 2004 draft that landed Dustin Pedroia and continuing with the 2005 draft that produced Jacoby Ellsbury, Craig Hansen, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, and Michael Bowden.

“Our new Scouting Director will likely be someone from within the organization who is familiar with the Red Sox scouting systems and philosophies we have used for the last seven or eight years,’’ Epstein wrote. “Ultimately, the Red Sox Way of scouting and development is our foundation; it’s more important to our success than any one of us individuals who are lucky enough to work here.’’

McLeod joined the Red Sox in 2003, after working in the Padres organization since 1994. He is a San Diego native.

Longer playoffs?
Michael Weiner, executive director of the Players Association, said that players would like to extend the first round of the postseason to best-of-seven when the next labor agreement comes up for discussion in 2012. The Division Series has been best-of-five since its inception in 1995.

“There is a lot of sentiment for a seven-game Division Series,’’ Weiner said. “I think a properly constructed postseason schedule could accommodate three seven-game series but still have it extend over a shorter period of time than what happened this year.’’

Weiner said the players are unhappy with the extra days off inserted into the current postseason schedule. The playoffs extended five days into November this season.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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