Gagne and Brewers finalize $10 million, 1-year contract
Gagne and the Brewers finalized a $10 million, one-year contract on Monday, giving the Brewers a potential replacement for All-Star reliever Francisco Cordero.
The 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner, Gagne finished last season with the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. He was acquired from Texas at the trade deadline in a deal that grabbed headlines, but struggled in a setup role with the Red Sox and was rarely used in tight situations down the stretch.
With the Brewers, he’s expected to work the ninth inning. Gagne and Milwaukee setup man Derrick Turnbow are longtime golfing buddies.
“I talked to Derrick and he said, ’I know what my job is – it’s to get the ball to Eric at the back end of games,”’ Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said.
Gagne can earn an additional $1 million in performance bonuses next year: $250,000 each for 50, 55, 60 and 65 games finished.
The 31-year-old right-hander joins a bullpen that lost Cordero, who agreed to a $46 million, four-year contract with Cincinnati after saving 44 games for Milwaukee this season. The Brewers recently obtained reliever Salomon Torres in a trade with Pittsburgh and signed right-handed reliever David Riske.
“They got three, four guys that could be closers,” Gagne said, “so it’s a great honor to be here.”
Gagne was a disappointment in Boston, which traded for him in July. He was 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 20 games for the Red Sox, finishing 4-2 with 16 saves and a 3.81 ERA overall.
He had 152 saves with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2002-04, the most in a three-year period in major league history. He converted a record 84 consecutive save opportunities.
“Eric’s saves numbers speak for themselves,” Melvin said. “This signing provides a proven closer who will be an integral part of our rebuilt bullpen.”
Gagne had a career-high 55 saves and a 1.20 ERA with the Dodgers in 2003.
He had a season-ending operation on his right elbow in June 2005 and appeared in only two games for the Dodgers the following year when he underwent surgery on a herniated disk.
He had to pass a physical for the deal with Milwaukee to be completed.
“He came through the physical with flying colors,” Melvin said. “Our doctor and medical staff felt very good about all the tests that Eric went through.”
Gagne said he feels better now than he has in years.
“It’s just good to go into the offseason healthy,” he said. “I really feel great and my body feels good.”
Discounting the idea that a tough Fenway Park crowd contributed to his struggles with the Red Sox, Gagne said he simply tried to do too much. He called his half-season in Boston “a great experience” and added that he’s comfortable with the high expectations Milwaukee fans will have for him.
“I expect to do good, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t expect that out of me,” he said.
The Brewers finished this season 83-79, topping the .500 mark for the first time since 1992. But their big division lead slipped away over the final three months and they missed the playoffs, winding up two games behind the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs.