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?