When you are a clown in the Auguste “my appearance and behaviour is bizarre and meant for your entertainment” sense, it is difficult to flip switch and be taken seriously as a Professional Baseball Pitcher. When you are coming off a full year away from the game after your second Tommy John surgery and with a minimum guaranteed pay day of $6.8 million coming up, stuff gets serious in a hurry.
Such is the situation of Brian Wilson, annoyer of most and former closer of the San Francisco Giants. Wilson faces an old fashioned non-tendering by the San Francisco Giants as he is indeed owed at least $6.8 million after earning $8.5 million in 2012. Wilson signed a two-year, $15 million deal after the Giants 2010 World Series triumph. The Super Two player still has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining, thus the guaranteed figure (the Giants cannot pay by less than 80% of his previous season’s salary as per the CBA).
With large arbitration raises due for fellow Giants Hunter Pence and Santiago Casilla, Wilson figures to be the odd man out. Should the Giants non-tender Wilson, he becomes a free agent. The Giants can then re-sign him unless another team steps to the fore…
Enter the Rays. Signing Brian Wilson and his health question marks represents a quintessential Rays buy-low move. A team that rebuilds its bullpen on a year basis is always on the lookout for live arms to remake and churn, allowing other teams to take on the risk of paying top dollar for volatile pieces.
Because of Wilson’s time away from the game and “colorful” behavior, it is easy to forget just how effective a pitcher he is. Was. Whichever. Wilson struck out 297 batters over 264+ innings in his four full seasons as the Giants closer, leading baseball in saves over that time. He pitched in a lot of games and induced copious ground balls to go with his strong strikeout rate.
If not the Rays, any team that adds Wilson gets a very good pitcher who comes complete with very large question marks. Jason Frasor went on to become the Blue Jays franchise leader in games pitched as a reliever after his second Tommy John procedure, Chris Capuano scraped together a decent career after two while Jason Isringhausen underwent an improbable three tendon transplants.
As discussed last week in regards to former a closer Ryan Madson, Wilson’s immediate impact remains up in the air. With the Angels apparently tapping Madson to be their closer straight off his Tommy John, perhaps some brave team will give Wilson the chance to finish games without determining his “game-readiness” first.
Wilson relies on control and nibbling, throwing his patented cutter on the black rather than missing bats. By swinging strike rate, Wilson barely ranks in the top 50 among relievers with 200 innings across his 2008-2011 peak.
Without game action since early 2012, can the 30-year old Wilson command the baseball as required to be effective with his stuff? The Giants aren’t willing to pay the high price to find out. Will another take on Wilson — and his sideshow persona — and let him work his way into the role? Seems like a perfect storm of two percentary to me.