Skip to comments.Braves enter Wagner chase
Posted on 11/28/2005 12:36:37 AM PST by NapkinUser
The Mets long have come in on the wrong side of their rivalry with the Braves, and now Atlanta might be making a serious run at one of the Mets' top free agent targets - closer Billy Wagner.
Two baseball executives said yesterday that Braves GM John Schuerholz was planning to meet with Wagner's agent, Bean Stringfellow, this week. Wagner had acknowledged interest by the Braves and Red Sox when he met with New York-area reporters following a visit here last week, but noted they "have other things on their plate right now."
However, a scheduled meeting is a sign that the Braves' pursuit could heat up.
As one baseball executive said yesterday, "Schuerholz seems to do something every year."
Wagner lives in Virginia, so the Braves could offer the kind of Southern lifestyle he's more accustomed to, though Wagner also has said he's enjoyed the energy of Philadelphia the past two seasons.
The general consensus in baseball had been that the Braves were less likely to be able to afford Wagner than the Mets or the Phillies. But Chipper Jones recently restructured his contract, dropping his salary from $17 million to $11 million next season, which frees up some money for the Braves to pursue Wagner and re-sign shortstop Rafael Furcal.
"That's always appealing," Wagner said of the prospect of joining the Braves. "They're winners."
The Mets hosted Wagner and his wife last week, showing them leafy suburbs and making a three-year offer worth more than $30 million that could jump to four years and $40 million if he nails certain incentives. The Phillies also are hoping to re-sign Wagner, who had 38 saves and a 1.51 ERA in 2005.
Schuerholz has a track record of making a splash during the winter. Last year, he dealt for ace Tim Hudson. One month before spring training in 2002, he completed a trade for slugger Gary Sheffield, and after the '02 season, he got Mike Hampton from the Marlins and didn't have to pay all of his bloated contract.
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