Phillies, Wagner have 'good discussion'

Phillies meet with Wagner

PHILADELPHIA -- The latest installment in the bid to retain Billy Wagner featured the free agent's first face-to-face meeting with Pat Gillick.

And the Phillies' new general manager quickly realized what has been known for some time.

"I found Billy to be a candid, forthright guy," said Gillick, while driving from Virginia to Philadelphia. "We had a good discussion and exchanged some ideas. I was very impressed by him."

The ideas exchanged during the 2 1/2-hour meeting focused mostly on Gillick stressing Wagner's importance to his team's postseason aspirations. Those were the only details provided about the afternoon spent with Wagner, his wife, Sarah, and agent Bean Stringfellow.

"They made Billy feel as if he is their top priority," Stringfellow said. "They stressed that he was the guy they wanted to lock up before they did anything else, and Billy appreciated hearing that."

The Phillies made no new offer, though Gillick told Stringfellow that the Phillies would be in touch soon, most likely before the weekend. Should things continue to progress, another meeting might be scheduled.

"We'll continue the dialogue over the next few days," Gillick said. "As long as we're talking, there's always a chance. We'll be happy to discuss different issues."

Since a new proposal didn't arrive Wednesday, the Phillies are sticking to a previous proposal that was believed to have been for three guaranteed seasons and $29 million to $31 million, an upgrade from an earlier offer of three years and $24 million. Philadelphia is also thought to have made a two-year proposal in the neighborhood of $21 million.

Whether Gillick's proposal would be higher, lower or the same was unclear. Stringfellow wouldn't cite specifics of any offer, but said he would await word from Philadelphia.

"There's still some work that needs to be done, and there are still a lot of pieces to the puzzle," Stringfellow said. "The timeline will be when it's right."

Wagner's timeline still includes next week's two-day tour of New York City that will include some suburban neighborhoods in eastern Connecticut. He'll likely leave that trip with an offer from the Mets, thought to be Philadelphia's chief rival in the pursuit.

The Mets appear poised to overwhelm Wagner with an offer that could top out at four guaranteed seasons for as much as $43 million, but that is speculation at this point. More likely, the Mets' offer will be at three years and $30 million with a fourth-year option, according to a league source.

One published report said the Mets had already made such an offer. Stringfellow rebuffed that because he said an offer that preceded Wagner's visit was like putting the cart before the horse.

"If Billy and his family aren't comfortable [in New York], it doesn't matter what they offer," Stringfellow said.

Money doesn't appear to be an object for the cash-rich Mets, after shedding Mike Piazza's contract. They would save an additional $5 million if the outfielder swap with San Diego of Mike Cameron for Xavier Nady happens, and they have a new television network.

The Mets also have a recent track record of luring three significant free agents in the past few offseasons, outbidding the Phillies for Tom Glavine in 2002 and outbidding everybody for Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran last winter. The Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox and Tigers are also interested in Wagner.

A self-proclaimed "country boy who plays baseball," Wagner doesn't see a problem playing in Philadelphia or New York. He cites his family's comfort as a top factor in his decision. His wife and three children -- two of which would be changing schools -- plan to relocate to the city where he signs, and he has said that he would like the security of knowing where he'll be for at least the next three seasons.

"I'd like to know where I'm going to be for the next three seasons," Wagner said last week. "And every team I talk to is going to know that my family has to be comfortable and enjoy where we're going to be. We're looking long term, and taking our time."

Taking his time might also mean visiting a few other cities, though there are no imminent trips planned. For now, it's New York and then figure out a next step. By then, there will be at least two offers to consider.

While the Phillies are hopeful that Wagner's visit will be nothing more than a two-day jaunt to the big city, Gillick admitted that the Phillies have been preparing a Plan B, a list that likely includes Trevor Hoffman, B.J. Ryan, Tom Gordon, Bob Wickman and Dustin Hermanson.

"In the free-agent market, you can't be surprised," Gillick said. "You always have backup plans. [Wagner and the Phillies] made an agreement that we would stay in touch. I think the ball is in both our courts, really."

It's just Philadelphia's serve.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.