Depending on who the Phillies select as their new GM, closer Billy Wagner might be sticking around, writes the Philadelphia News’ Marcus Hayes.

Billy Wagner received the Phillies’ latest, best offer yesterday when agent Bean Stringfellow drove from Richmond to visit Wagner’s alpaca farm outside Charlottesville, Va.

He wouldn’t say exactly what it was, but acknowledged that it met or came close to most of his current demands: 3 years for $30 million, all guaranteed money, with a full no-trade clause.

“They made a nice offer. It’s the one we expected would be the first offer,” said Wagner, whose price tag went from $24 million at the All-Star break to $27 million after the break, then rose to $30 million when the season ended.

The Phillies’ previous offer, delivered in person by president David Montgomery and assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. 7 days before, was thought to be less than $22 million of guaranteed money; Wagner wasn’t interested.

“This time, they made a legitimate offer,” Wagner said. “It’s one you definitely look at. Sarah [his wife] and I will take a few days and look at it.”

He wants to test free agency. He wants to know who the Phillies’ new general manager will be, and be assured that the new GM will bolster the bullpen in front of Wagner (above). And he’d love it if the new GM turns out to be former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker, who traded Wagner to the Phillies after the 2003 season.

“This is a positive step, but I’ve never been a free agent. You finally get to pick a place you want to go,” said Wagner, 34, the best of a glut of closers hitting the market next month – a market rife with rich buyers such as the Red Sox, Mets and Phillies.

He wants to see exactly who will be back in Philadelphia, too. The Phillies gave him pedigreed setup men the last two seasons in Tim Worrell and Ugueth Urbina, both of whom were complemented by Ryan Madson.

Worrell is gone. Urbina is under investigation in his native Venezuela for an altercation after a party held in his honor last weekend. Amaro yesterday said the Phillies, who are interested in re-signing Urbina if they don’t re-sign Wagner, would have no comment until they knew more about the incident. Regardless, Urbina, who usually is a closer, has said he won’t return to the Phillies as a setup man.

League sources indicate that the Phillies plan to move Madson from the bullpen, where he has spent his first two seasons, and make him a starter, most likely to replace enigmatic talent Vicente Padilla. The Phillies are not expected to offer arbitration to Padilla. Madson probably would join 2001 first-round pick Gavin Floyd in the back of the rotation.

Wagner wants to make sure that he likes that rotation and, more important, that he has bullpen protection. He figures Hunsicker would supply that if the Phillies hire him.

“I love Gerry. That would encourage me,” said Wagner, who acknowledged that he and Hunsicker “butted heads” when Wagner was an Astro. Wagner, however, has always maintained that Houston owner Drayton McLane, not Hunsicker, was the reason Wagner complained. Hunsicker reportedly left the Astros after last season because of McLane, too.

Unmentioned by Hayes are the Atlanta Braves, who will probably take a long look at available relievers in this offseason.