NEW YORK — Billy Wagner wants to be a closer next season, regardless of which team he’s on.
That’s why the New York Mets reliever says Boston must guarantee it will decline his contract option for 2010 before he would approve a potential trade this week to the Red Sox, who already have an All-Star closer in Jonathan Papelbon.
“I don’t want to end my career as a setup man,” Wagner said. “I’d like to have that option.”
Wagner has a no-trade clause in his contract, which includes an $8 million option for next year with a $1 million buyout. If his option is declined, he can become a free agent in the offseason and sign with any team.
Wagner confirmed Monday that Boston placed a waiver claim on him last Friday. The fourth-place Mets have until Tuesday to trade him to the Red Sox, pull him back off waivers or assign him to Boston for nothing in return.
If the Mets pull Wagner back, they can’t trade him for the rest of the season. If they let him go to Boston, the Red Sox would be responsible for the nearly $3.5 million owed to Wagner under his current contract.
FOXSports.com reported late Sunday that Wagner’s agent, Bean Stringfellow, had another condition for Wagner accepting a trade to Boston: He wants the Red Sox to guarantee they won’t offer Wagner salary arbitration this offseason, thus making him more attractive to potential suitors on the open market, because those teams wouldn’t have to give up high draft picks as compensation for signing him.
According to the FOXSports.com report, Stringfellow said Boston rejected both demands.
“Bean can’t talk to Boston, so he doesn’t know any more than I really know. So right now we’re just kind of in limbo,” Wagner said.
After the Mets’ 6-2 loss to Philadelphia on Monday, Wagner said he was set to travel with the team to Florida. New York begins a three-game series against the Marlins on Tuesday night.
“Right now I’m going to Florida. Unless something changes in Boston, I’m going to be a Met,” he said. “They want me to set up. I’m too old to set up. I’d like to end my career as a closer.”
The 38-year-old Wagner is sixth on the career list with 385 saves. He said he’d like to reach 400 and then pass John Franco (424) for the most by a left-handed pitcher.
“I’d like to get at that level,” Wagner said. “There’s not many people in that 400 club.”
Wagner was expected to miss the entire season following elbow ligament replacement surgery last September. He made a quick recovery and returned to the Mets on Thursday night, when he struck out two in a perfect inning against Atlanta and reached 96 mph with his fastball.
His second appearance also was a success. Wagner fanned two more batters in a hitless eighth inning Monday against the first-place Phillies.
“The results, once again, were good. But I wasn’t very consistent. I didn’t think I pitched that well,” he said. “I don’t really have to showcase myself. I think everybody knows what I can do. All they want to know is, can I do it?”
Wagner is interested in completing the season with a playoff contender, but he’s also looking farther down the road. He said he hasn’t committed to pitching beyond next season.
“We haven’t made any real plans. It’s not going to be much longer,” he said. “I kind of enjoy being around my family and my kids and coaching them, so it’s not going to be very much longer. I mean, they’ve sacrificed enough.”
Even if he’s not traded, Wagner doesn’t expect to remain with the Mets next year. New York signed All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez to a $37 million, three-year contract last offseason.
“They’re not going to pay $8 million to have me set up Frankie and they know that I wouldn’t be satisfied,” Wagner said. “They’ve expressed to me that they want what’s best for me and they would like to help me out. They have a closer. They’d like to help me reach that goal. We just have to see if that comes to pass.
“I’ve enjoyed New York tremendously. I’ve had a blast playing here. It’s just, I think my role is as a closer,” he added. “Me getting hurt last year and them picking up Frankie, that just puts me in an odd situation and it’s one of those that it’s best to maybe move on.”