ESPNews reports New York Mets closer Billy Wagner (forearm) will undergo surgery on his forearm and will miss the remainder of the season.
Wagner cut short his bullpen session Sunday, Sept. 7, after he experienced some intense pain on his 15th toss. The organization said that Wagner has tears in his flexor pronator and medial collateral ligament in his left elbow. The injury is expected to keep him out until after the 2009 season.
Wagner had a fine season: He recorded mediocre 27 saves, but he posted a 2.30 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP, with 52 strikeouts, in 47 innings. Although his rate of strikeouts per nine innings has been on the decline, this year he proved that he is still more than capable of nailing them down in the ninth. Wagner adjusted by pitching a bit more to contact this season.
Needless to say, fantasy owners should drop Wagner.
This news means that reliever Luis Ayala's value is secure for the remainder of the season, barring an undoing by his right arm. The Mets found it difficult to close out games on a consistent basis with Wagner out, but they may be thanking their lucky stars for the waiver trade acquisition of Ayala. The right-hander has allowed three earned runs and 10 hits, while fanning seven, in 10 innings since he joined the Mets. He has saved five games in six chances for them, too.
Ayala is still available in many leagues, so fantasy owners in need of saves should check their pools for his name.
Wagner's expected absence for next season increases the stock of young reliever Eddie Kunz. The right-hander was called up as part of the committee to replace Wagner this year, but he was sent back to the minors to make room for Ayala's arrival. He gave up four runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings (13.50 ERA).
Kunz struck out 47 in 54 total minor league innings this year, and the Triple-A season just ended. There's a small chance he could come up this year because he's on their 40-man roster, but Ayala's success has allowed the Mets to avoid making that move. The organization considers Kunz its closer of the future, and that time could come in '09. Fantasy owners need to put Kunz on their watch lists if they haven't already.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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