A blank stare.It wasn’t too long ago that Eric Gagne was baseball’s premier closer and one of the few relievers to ever win a Cy Young. Then came two years in which he battled injuries, and a pretty good (but not stellar) start to the 2007 season in Texas. Yet in July, enough teams felt that he had enough left to vie for his services at the trade deadline. The Boston Red Sox bested their perpetual competitors in all major acquisitions, the New York Yankees, to win Gagne’s services for the remainder of the season, sending starting pitcher Kason Gabbard, minor league outfielder Dave Murphy, and highly regarded prospect Engel Beltre to Texas in exchange for Gagne. Boston also had to buy out the performance incentives in Gagne’s contract, since they wanted him to be their set-up man, not their closer. At the time, the deal was considered by most (though not all) to be a major coup.

How quickly things change. For reasons even he couldn’t understand, Gagne imploded in Boston. Red Sox fans quickly turned on him, moving from shock to hate to please-kill-him-it-would-be-more-merciful in record time. Time after time after time, Red Sox manager Terry Francona gave Gagne the chance to redeem himself. Time after time after time, Gagne failed. In fact, Eric Gagne was solely responsible for knocking several games off of Boston’s division lead over New York, almost single-handedly fostering an unnecessarily dramatic pennant race at the end of a season in which the Red Sox had commandeered the top spot in the AL East since mid-April.

Now the Red Sox have offered Gagne arbitration. Gagne may accept, but is expected to decline (not least because his agent is Scott Boras, and when do Scott Boras clients ever accept arbitration?). According to Jon Heyman (via mlbtraderumors, which I know all of you are refreshing every 10 minutes, don’t pretend you aren’t!):

The Brewers and Astros are among teams bidding for Eric Gagne, who has to be a closer wherever he goes (he was almost perfect as a closer in Texas last year, then perfectly awful as a setup man in Boston). Perhaps he could return to Texas, too, where he thrived.

And the Dallas Morning News reports that the Rangers have already contacted Gagne about returning to Texas, where he certainly had more success than in Boston. Last year, they gave him a one-year, $6 million deal with $5 million in performance bonuses.

So I ask you: if you were a baseball GM, would you take a chance on Eric Gagne? Do you think he struggled in Boston just because he wasn’t in the closer role? And if so, how much would you pay him?

32 Responses to “What would you pay for Eric Gagne?”

  1. I think what will put the Brewers over the top in 2008 is a full season of Ryan Braun.

  2. Sarah Green says:

    “If the Brewers are guaranteeing Gagne $10 million they’ve overspent.” Melissa, that is the understatement of the winter. It is a preposterous deal. What kind of money would Gagne have seen had he NOT pitched like crap in the second half of the season? Clearly baseball salaries are no longer tethered to any sort of reality. They are just abstractions that have no real reality, like the ideas of the Lithuanian semiotician Greimas, the breasts of Jennifer Love Hewitt, or the square root of one.

  3. Sarah Green says:

    And Coley, yes, they would have been better off saving the $10 million bucks for a couple of years and then using it to sign Ryan Braun to a long-term contract.

  4. Tom Hoffman says:

    Hold on. It can be argued that baseball is an “efficient market”. These guys are the best at what they do. Compare Bernie Ebbers, Dennis Koslowski, Bill Gates. Those pricks, who get orders of magnitude more than baseball players, never stepped into a batters box in front of 40,000 people, never got grilled the next day in newspapers, TV and radio for what they did the night before, never gambled their whole lives on the unlikely prospect of becoming a major league baseball player, never had to worry about a sore shoulder or knee ruining their careers, never really entertained anyone or did anything useful at all, and stole billions in the process. Talk about “untethered to reality”. I think we should pay more money to baseball players. If the life of the average minor league player weren’t such a miserable poverty of hot dogs and crummy motels, the whole game would improve. They deserve every penny! Pay them more!

  5. Sarah, thanks for adding the hyperbole that I lacked. I find this as inexplicable as you do. Also, Dennis Miller could use your help with his latest talk show.

  6. Sarah Green says:

    Tom, point taken, but without Bill Gates, could we even be blogging about this subject right now? I think not. Eric Gagne’s price is clearly market price, but since market price is whatever the market will pay for something, that logic is a bit circular. We must ask ourselves three simple questions:

    A) Did Eric Gagne do anything to merit a pay raise? No.

    B) Could the Brewers have gotten Eric Gagne for less? Yes.

    C) Was this money the Brewers NEEDED to allocate to Eric Gagne, or could it have been better spent elsewhere? Could it, in fact, have been better spent putting in a brand-new, walnut-paneled clubhouse, scented with truffle oil, staffed by geishas, and festooned with individual marble bathtubs for every player on the 40-man roster? Almost certainly yes.

    @ Melissa—thanks!

  7. Tom Hoffman says:

    Geishas for our besuboru samurai! What a lovely idea. Should the Red Sox be thinking of this?

  8. Sarah Green says:

    Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s already in Matsuzaka’s contract somewhere…

  9. Rob Palmour says:

    Dear Coley,

    I stumbled onto your blurb here on a quest to find information about saving spring training baseball in Tucson. I am currently in the process of trying to start a petition to save spring ball in the old pueblo. I really believe in the the cause and am looking for any help or information to get the grassroots campaign underway. Please feel free to contact me if you have either.

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