Will C.J. Wilson Get $100 Million?

Two years ago, Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson struck me as a quality reliever, but certainly not someone who could eventually score a $100MM contract.  Now, with free agency just months away, I'm wondering if that could be his ceiling on the open market.


Wilson switched back to starting in 2010, and he exceeded expectations.  Though Wilson led the American League in walks, he also made 33 starts with a 3.35 ERA in the regular season.  Sure, his SIERA was 4.19, but the conversion was a success.  Had Wilson signed an extension after the 2010 season, giving up three free agent years for around $10-11MM apiece seemed appropriate.  The decision to wait paid off for Wilson, as he's taken his game to a new level in 2011.  The walks are down significantly, the strikeout rate is up, and he made the All-Star team.  Without Cliff Lee around, Wilson is the Rangers' undisputed ace.

Wilson's innings total predictably skyrocketed in 2010, but it didn't lead to any injuries.  Including the postseason, he made 37 starts that year for a total of 228 1/3 innings.  He averaged almost 17 pitches per inning in 2010 and about 6.2 innings per start.  This year he's been more efficient at 16.2 pitches per inning, and he's exceeding 6.6 innings per start.

Why do I think $100MM is possible?  Age is not a concern, as he turns 31 in November.  He's become a horse, but his overall mileage is low because of the time spent as a reliever.  He's succeeded in a tough home park and in the American League.  The advanced numbers are strong and he provides the fairly rare combination of strikeouts and groundballs.  Here's a look at the recent big pitching contracts signed on the open market:

  • Cliff Lee: five years, $120MM ($24MM per year).  32 years old at time of signing.
  • John Lackey: five years, $82.5MM ($16.5MM per year).  31 years old.
  • C.C. Sabathia: seven years, $161MM, plus opt-out clause ($23MM per year).  28 years old.
  • A.J. Burnett: five years, $82.5MM ($16.5MM per year).  32 years old shortly after signing.

It's easy to toss Wilson into the Lackey/Burnett bracket and expect a similar contract.  But Lackey had missed a month in each of his previous seasons and had totaled 373 innings.  Burnett was coming off a career-best 221 1/3 innings, but had pitched only 301 1/3 over the previous two seasons.  Meanwhile Wilson is projecting for perhaps 225 innings this year, for a total exceeding 450 over 2010-11.  He doesn't come with the injury concern Lackey and Burnett did.

Also consider that Burnett signed after the '08 season and Lackey after '09, so even if Wilson were comparable to them he'd deserve more based on inflation.  I think there's an easy case for $90MM over five years, so it's not crazy to think one team would add a sixth year or take him to the $20MM per year range.  This only applies if we're talking about a free agent bidding war – if the Rangers re-sign him prior to open season, it'll be for less.  It should be noted that the Yankees and Red Sox figured prominently into all four free agent contracts mentioned above, so their involvement with Wilson will be a huge factor.

We also have to look at what the free agent and trade markets will offer in terms of competition.  Sabathia could again be the free agent prize if he opts out, but he'll require a commitment well beyond Wilson that only a few teams could handle.  Sabathia could re-sign with the Yankees early on, which might take them out of the Wilson bidding but also leave him as the best available starter, easily above Edwin Jackson or Hisashi Iwakuma.  Yu Darvish being posted would shake things up, though some teams might still prefer Wilson.  The trade market figures to feature Wandy Rodriguez and perhaps a few surprises, but I'm not sure there's a Zack Greinke, Matt Garza, or Shaun Marcum-caliber pitcher in the mix for this offseason.

Wilson's progression has been amazing – an '08 season that ended with elbow surgery, 14 saves and a 10.3 K/9 relieving in '09, a mid-rotation type in '10, and an ace in '11.  Now it's time to see what he's worth.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.

66 Responses to Will C.J. Wilson Get $100 Million? Leave a Reply

  1. I’d rather sign Mark Buehrle.

  2. He’s good, but not $100 Million good.

    • rizdak 4 years ago

      Is any professional athlete really $100 Million good?

      • coolstorybro222 4 years ago


        • Isaac 4 years ago

          Alex Rodriguez when he was in his prime. Albert Pujols. Mark Teixera in his prime. Troy Tulowitzki. So yeah there are athletes worth 100million

          • jwsox 4 years ago

            The answer in the real world, what he was looking for, is no. No one is worth 100 mill.

          • East Coast Bias 4 years ago

            You’re only worth as much as someone is willing to pay you.

      • Chris1G 4 years ago

        Micheal Vick apparently is worth 100 million dollars

  3. If anyone gives this guy $100 million they’re insane. He’s good just not $100 million good.

    • Chris1G 4 years ago

      Consider the Yankees insane then this off season then (if you haven’t considered them insane already)

      • Doubt it. They’ll be too busy throwing $100-120M at Darvish while Wilson signs elsewhere.

    • Chris1G 4 years ago

      Consider the Yankees insane then this off season then (if you haven’t considered them insane already)

  4. coolguy23 4 years ago

    A hundo milli? That’s a load of dough even for me, and I’m super-rich. Imagine all the cat food you could get with that kind of money – only the best for C.J.’s feline friend Ricky AM I RIGHT?

  5. MadmanTX 4 years ago

    Although Wilson is currently the “ace” of the Rangers rotation, he still isn’t exactly a top flight pitcher. He’s also still a flake. If things don’t go his way, he gets into a funk and spirals the same as Ian Kinsler. I’d rather see $100 mil spent on a better, more reliable pitcher–if one can be found out there in free agency. I could see Wilson getting the money from another, more desperate team–like the Mets or Yankees.

    • SaigonHooker 4 years ago

      SaigonHooker thinks you are a flake.  What has actually set the ceiling for Wilson’s next contract is the Weaver deal.  That will be the example used by teams in negotiations with Wilson’s jackals.  I mean agent.

    • captainjeter 4 years ago

      we ain’t  desperate,fool. We  got Banulous coming and Betances

      • Bernaldo 4 years ago

        Neither of whom has pitched an inning in MLB and are just as likely to be mediocre as good.  The Yankees hope that both become bona fide big leaguers, but they aren’t going to bet the house on it.  The Yankees will be looking for proved starters this off season and hope for help from their minor leaguers.

      • Didn’t you boys say the same thing about Hughes and Chamberlain just 3-4 years ago? How’s that working out for ya? Between the two, you’ve gotten one truly good season each.

    • Charlie Martínez 4 years ago

      I don’t see the Yankees throwing a 100 M to this guy, if the price comes down to the weaver/burnett/lackey [85 M] Yes, the Yankees will do it. Wilson is a good pitcher, but the only reason he is a an Ace is because Lee picked the Phillies, a No. 2 starter at Best. 

      The Mets? What is that?

    • Beau Buchholz 4 years ago

      uhhhh what? perception is not always reality.  Wilson is 11th in IP, 7th in strikeouts, 13th in ERA, 7th in walks, 10th in K/9, 10th in quality starts.  

      Is he Justin Verlander?  No.  Is he a “top flight”  pitcher?  Yes.  

    • Joe Valenti 4 years ago

      you really think sandy “moneyball” alderson is going to give him $100 mil? he’s already said how much he hates longterm contracts. he already has to do it with reyes. i really seem to doubt he will do it with wilson too

      • East Coast Bias 4 years ago

        Your sound logic looks alien in this topic.

  6. vtadave 4 years ago

    I wouldn’t do it as a GM, but if your team has money, this is what the market may be. The Yankees will certainly be in the market for starting pitching (when aren’t they?), and I expect a bidding war between them and the Rangers.  I’d say 5/80 is a starting point, but a team may need to go a year too long at 6 years and push the total near $100 million.

  7. notsureifsrs 4 years ago


    AL FIP- last two years (FIP adjusted for park and league)



    • TartanElk 4 years ago

      Under-rated, perhaps. I’m betting he’ll get $100 million, but honestly, has he done enough to deserve it? I feel as if he’s 1 more solid year away from deserving that kind of money.

      Currently, I’d say he’s more of a 4/70-80 player. He’s currently a very good pitcher, but he’s not quite over that cusp of being elite in my mind.

    • JacksTigers 4 years ago

      Justin Verlander – 5 Years/$80MM
      Jered Weaver – 5 Years/$85MM
      CC Sabathia – 7 Years/$161MM
      Felix Hernandez – 5 Years/$78MM
      Jon Lester – 5 Years/$30MM
      David Price – 6 Years/$8.5MM

      Sabathia is the only $100MM man when looking at the AL’s top FIP pitchers. There is no way that CJ Wilson makes more than some of the other top pitchers in the league. And yes, I am aware that Lester and Price would make much more in free agency, but this is all that I have to work with at the moment.

      • notsureifsrs 4 years ago

        i didn’t claim that he will or ought to get $100M, just that he’s underrated

        but exactly one of the contracts you just mentioned was signed in free agency, and it’s the $100M one. so i don’t think that list helps make the argument that he won’t make $100M

      • Exactly, I don’t see Wilson getting $100MM. I also doubt you see him getting more than 4 guaranteed years at 31 years old. 4 years/$72-75MM with maybe a 5th year team option at $20M is more likely.

  8. Ta-Kuan Fuan 4 years ago

    Anything more than 5/75 would be crazy.

  9. cubsfan97 4 years ago

    Hes put up numbers the last two years a 100 million dollar pitcher would.  But most 100 million dollar pitchers put up good numbers for 5 or 6 years.  Im not saying he wont be good, but thats too narrow of a track record for someone to give him a 100 million dollars.

    • bjsguess 4 years ago

      This is my exact argument. Each of those guys had a track record that was significant. Two years of starting, with one really great year, is still too risky for me.

      Other thing to point out – look who signed those 4 comparables – Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, Yankees. Point is that there are maybe 5 or 6 teams in all of baseball that would be prepared to shell out $100m for a 31 YO starting pitcher. Phillies are set. I don’t see the Red Sox making a play for him. The Yankees could always do something but if they retain CC that’s a lot of money in the rotation. 

      • captainjeter 4 years ago

        Yankees only conern is keeping CC. Banulous is  coming along  very nicely and he ‘s a lefty/

    • Ta-Kuan Fuan 4 years ago

      Even though I completely agree with you, but to play the devil’s advocate here, Cliff Lee didn’t exactly have a long track record either for all the big teams to be swooning over him. He had a solid 2005 before falling way off (and subsequently sent back down to the minors) before he had that amazing Cy Young season in 2008. His 2009 season was pretty good coupled by an outstanding postseason. Ditto with 2010. So that’s basically 1 great year and 2 good years that got him a 5yr / $120 million contract. He could’ve easily gotten more had he gone to the Yankees.

  10. Simply put, he doesn’t have enough experience/track record (as a starter) to warrant such a deal. You can’t go throwing around 100M contracts to every SP who pitches two good years straight. the salaries in mlb are getting more ridiculous each year and if you do it for CJ, EVERY 2 year stud is gonna look for it.

    • Isaac 4 years ago

      Yankees could

    • Ta-Kuan Fuan 4 years ago

      Cliff Lee got a super lucrative contract with just 1 outstanding year and 2 good years. Before that, he only had 1 solid year and was even sent down to the minors prior to his Cy Young season.

  11. TheFreak2011 4 years ago

    I suppose there’s a sucker out there born every day, or seemingly so, but I don’t see him getting any more than what Lackey or AJ Burnett got.  There’s not enough quality years to back his performance of this year, imo.  I also think he will re-sign with Texas.

  12. corey23 4 years ago

    I think someone gives him $100 mill, and they regret it.

  13. Anthony Polito 4 years ago

    he’s not wrote it 100 mill

  14. jfretless 4 years ago

    If C.J. Wilson gets $100 mil, Giants fan should start getting ready to say good bye to Lincecum and/or Cain.

    • Isaac 4 years ago


    • Dan Wohl 4 years ago

      Why? Giants can afford it, with their boatload of idiotic contracts mercifully going off the books soon enough (Tejada and DeRosa after this year, Huff and Rowand after next, Zito, at long last, after the next). Assuming, of course, Sabean doesn’t hand out any more idiotic contracts, which is admittedly not at all a given.

      • Dan Wohl 4 years ago

        That being said, I do get the feeling Cain is a goner pretty soon. Probably should have traded him before this season when he would have had a lot of value, going into next season with 1 year before FA and 15 mil coming his way not so much. But I get the sense Giants will try to lock up Lincecum longterm this offseason and figure to roll with him and Bumgarner going forward.

      • bmoneyy20 4 years ago

        they might want to use some of that money and finally get a bat

      • If the Giants end up tying up all the young pitchers… you guys will never have a worthwhile offense. What you’ll be losing in the bad contracts, will be replaced by monetarily by Lincecum, Cain, Posey, Wilson, and potentially Sanchez and Bumgarner. You won’t have any cash left to to bring in any worthwhile bats.

    • captainjeter 4 years ago

      both Cain and Linecum would net around 150 million

      • Barring injuries and the like, Lincecum is a $100M pitcher in two years. Cain is at least $70M after next season. If Bumgarner continues as he has… he might end up worth more than Lincecum.

  15. It wouldn’t be the first crazy contract the Nats gave out.

  16. Encarnacion's Parrot 4 years ago

    5/$80MM sounds about right for the maximum he would get. 4/$60MM makes the most sense.

  17. rizdak 4 years ago

    The contract that isn’t mentioned here is Jered Weaver’s 5-year, $85M deal. So I have a tough time seeing CJ Wilson getting $100M unless it’s from Boston or New York.

    • Well, I’m talking about what Wilson would get if he makes it to free agency.

      • 0bsessions 4 years ago

        Given that using him as a comparable takes some damage when accounting for Weaver being an extension as opposed to a free agent signing, BUT, teams will almost certainly use him as a benchmark during negotiations.

  18. Any time you’re getting compared to John Lackey and A.J. Burnett, you should be worried.

  19. I said no but it only takes one Rizzo… I mean GM to make it happen.  I didn’t think Werth would get what he got either.  I think Wilson is to pitching as Werth is to hitting, both good at what they do but not necessarily an ace or the best hitter on a good team.  I’d take Wilson in a heartbeat but I don’t think he’s worth $100 million.  Then again neither are a lot of the guys who are making that now.

  20. Hello? Hiroki Kuroda? Much better value than Wilson

  21. rbeezy 4 years ago

    I could see it happening, the clubs with cash to spend like the yankees, sawx, tigers and Texas all could use another front line suitor. Would not be suprised if he hits at least  5/90.

  22. I would say that he is worth $100 million on the open market. Outside of CC, he is the top prize on the free agent market.  I only say this because somebody will overpay for him and I suspect the Washington Nationals will do the paying because they want to keep Jayson Werth happy.

  23. Casor_Greener 4 years ago

    If anybody pays 100M for this guy….

    • East Coast Bias 4 years ago

      …then what? What will happen? What will you do?

      The suspense is killing me, man!!

      • Casor_Greener 4 years ago

        LOL, it will just be a sad state of affairs.

  24. Cj does not deserve 100 mil. He was a reliever only a couple years ago. He was solid as a reliever. As a starter he had an above-average year and a better than good year. His first year he led the AL in walks as well. Two years of MLB starting shouldn’t be enough to get 100mil. For me, a pitcher needs to pitch on a high level for 3 1/2- 4 years before he should be considered ace worthy. If he had 5 years starting with a couple of sub-3.00 ERAs and continued k percentage then a 100 mil would be very capable. I dont think he should get more than 75/5 years.

    • Ta-Kuan Fuan 4 years ago

      Based on that, Cliff Lee isn’t an ace or ace worthy. I’m not saying that he is or isn’t, but simply based on his short track record.

  25. Remington 4 years ago

    If Weaver, Verlander, and Felix got 78-85 mil there is NO WAY Wilson is worth 100mil, he is not as good as those guys. Paying him 100mil would make him more overpayed than Alex Rios.

  26. Remington 4 years ago

    If Weaver, Verlander, and Felix got 78-85 mil there is NO WAY Wilson is worth 100mil, he is not as good as those guys. Paying him 100mil would make him more overpayed than Alex Rios.

  27. Ta-Kuan Fuan 4 years ago

    Even though I don’t agree with giving Wilson anything close to a $100 million contract, but if Cliff Lee could get 5yrs/$120million, why can’t Wilson get something like 5yrs/$90 or even $100million?

    Cliff Lee:2006: 14-11 / 4.40 ERA (102 ERA+) / 1.41 WHIP / 200 IP / 129 K / 58 BB
    2007: 5-8 / 6.29 ERA (72 ERA+) / 1.52 WHIP / 97 IP / 66 K / 36 BB2008: 22-3 / 2.54 ERA (168 ERA+) / 1.11 WHIP / 223 IP / 170 K / 34 BB
    2009: 14-13 / 3.22 ERA (131 ERA+) / 1.24 WHIP / 231 IP / 181 K / 43 BB
    2010: 12-9 / 3.18 ERA (133 ERA+) / 1.00 WHIP / 212 IP / 185 K / 18 BB

    CJ Wilson:2007: 2-1 / 3.03 ERA (151 ERA+) / 1.22 WHIP / 68 IP / 63 K / 33 BB2008: 2-2 / 6.02 ERA (74 ERA+) / 1.64 WHIP / 46 IP / 41 K / 27 BB
    2009: 5-6 / 2.81 ERA (166 ERA+) / 1.33 WHIP / 73 IP / 84 K / 32 BB
    2010: 15-8 / 3.35 ERA (134 ERA+) / 1.25 WHIP / 204 IP / 170 K / 93 BB
    2011: 13-6 / 3.29 ERA (133 ERA+) / 1.23 WHIP / 186 IP / 165 K / 62 BBIf you simply looked at the stats, would you say Cliff Lee was deserving of the type of contract that he received? Or is that simply the biased media making him out to be better than his track record shows?

  28. Too bad WAR isn’t a real stat. Sorry, but a stat which has its formula changed from “expert” to “expert” isn’t a stat.

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