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Brian Wilson Rumors
The Dodgers’ major overhaul continued today when they officially signed right-hander Brandon McCarthy to a four-year deal worth a reported $48MM. Few doubt McCarthy’s ability and those who put a great deal of faith in his sabermetric numbers are excited about what he can do in 2015 and beyond. However, the length of the 31-year-old’s pact gave pause to some people due to his injury history. Not only did the Dodgers take a risk with McCarthy – they doubled down by agreeing to sign Brett Anderson to a one-year, $10MM contract. Earlier today I asked Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi about the club’s willingness to roll the dice on those pitchers.
“There’s a risk-reward calculation that all teams make. Teams always have to consider these things with pitchers and [Dodgers head trainer] Stan Conte has been very involved in our process as far as histories and health risks go,” said Zaidi, who did not mention Anderson by name as his deal is not yet official. “Going forward with any pitcher now, it’s part of the cost-benefit analysis. You could have a guy who pitched 200-plus innings in the last four years that has a really bad elbow and that could go at any moment. Conversely, you could have a guy who has an injury history that you feel may be over the hump,”
“With Brandon and the other pitcher we’re evaluating, we’re trying to figure out how they’ll perform in 2015 and beyond.”
Zaidi, of course, is familiar with McCarthy and Anderson thanks to their time together with the A’s. He had nothing but praise for McCarthy, saying that there was no other pitcher in Oakland that he felt more comfortable with on the mound. Zaidi had a tremendous amount of confidence in the right-hander, he said, due to his “intelligence and attention to detail and game planning” as well as his command.
The Dodgers GM sounds equally confident in the status of McCarthy’s shoulder. Zaidi believes that those issues will be in the past thanks to a new offseason routine that calls for additional upper body work. The “proof is in the pudding” when it comes to McCarthy, who managed to add an extra 2 miles per hour to his fastball late in his career.
Midway through the conference call, reporters were informed that Brian Wilson was designated for assignment to make room for McCarthy on the roster. I asked Zaidi if Wilson was struggling this winter in his effort to get back to his old form.
“We’ve been keeping tabs on him in the offseason and this was not a move we made out of any medical concern. It was more related to performance and it’s a position where we had to make a move because we had a surplus,” Zaidi explained.
It appears that recent bullpen additions like Joel Peralta, Juan Nicasio, and Chris Hatcher have leapfrogged Wilson, leaving him without much of a role to play in Los Angeles in 2015. Their newest addition, meanwhile, will be counted on to serve as the fourth starter behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu.
While the end of Wilson’s tenure comes as something of a shock given his stout $9.5MM salary for next season, the fact is that he was not good at all last year. The 32-year-old pitched to a 4.22 ERA over 48 1/3 innings, with 10.1 K/9 against 5.4 BB/9.
He had shown excellent form over a short sample late in 2013, leading the Dodgers (under then-GM Ned Colletti) to award him a $10MM deal with a player option that floated in value and ultimately came in at $9.5MM. While it is likely that another team would be interested in bringing in Wilson to compete for a job in camp, his value obviously falls well shy of what he is owed.
The new brass in Los Angeles has been aggressive in turning over its roster, eating significant cash in the process. Wilson’s $9.5MM salary joins the $10MM owed to Dan Haren and $32MM piece of Matt Kemp‘s contract as cash on the books for players who are no longer on the team’s roster.
The Nationals are “likely” to trade setup man Tyler Clippard, a source tells FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projects Clippard will earn $9.3MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility before hitting the free agent market following the 2015 season, and with closer Drew Storen projected to land a $5.8MM contract as well, moving Clippard would allow the Nats to save some money at the back of their bullpen.
Here’s some more from Rosenthal on the relief market…
- The Royals have received trade interest in Greg Holland and Wade Davis, and one of the two relief stars could conceivably be moved for a hitter. Swartz projects Holland to earn $9.3MM in arbitration this winter, while K.C. already picked up their $7MM option on Davis for 2015. Holland can be a free agent after 2016, the Royals hold two more option years on Davis and Kelvin Herrera is also now arb-eligible, so Kansas City may simply not be able to afford their dominant late-game trio for much longer.
- Sergio Romo and Luke Gregerson are receiving more interest now that Andrew Miller is off the board. Neither pitcher has generated much on the rumor mill to date this offseason, though Romo has been cited as one of the Astros’ backup options after Miller signed with the Yankees.
- The Dodgers are looking for bullpen upgrades but are wary about making any major commitments given how much money they’ve already invested in relief pitching.
- Speaking of high-priced Dodgers relievers, the team’s new front office “is not enamored with” Brian Wilson. The righty will earn $9.5MM in 2015 after exercising the player option given to him by previous L.A. general manager Ned Colletti. Wilson posted a 4.66 ERA, 1.86 K/BB and 5.4 BB/9 over 48 1/3 IP in 2014 while suffering a drop in velocity, though it was his first full season after returning from Tommy John surgery.
The bearded closer-turned-setup-man appeared in 61 games with the Dodgers this season, totaling 48 1/3 innings of 4.66 ERA ball. In what was his first full season back from his second Tommy John operation, Wilson’s fastball velocity dipped to an average of 92.1 mph, and is command faltered a bit, as he issued 5.4 walks per nine innings pitched. He did, however, maintain his stellar strikeout rate, averaging 10.1 punchouts per nine innings.
Wilson’s tenure with the Dodgers began late in the 2013 season when he inked a $1MM big league deal in August and enjoyed a successful late-season and postseason run with L.A. He allowed one run in 19 2/3 innings between the regular season and postseason, striking out 21 against just six walks. That performance earned him a one-year contract that guaranteed him $10MM in 2014 with a $9MM player option that contained incentives based on appearances.
Were Wilson to again test the open market, he’d have gone up against a strong class of setup men that featured the likes of Luke Gregerson, Andrew Miller and Pat Neshek in addition to a few closers who lost their grip on the ninth inning but pitched well in an eighth-inning role (e.g. Sergio Romo and Jason Grilli). Instead, he’ll return to a contending team’s bullpen with a strong salary relative to his peers. Presumably, Wilson will look to reestablish his command and restore his once-excellent ground-ball rate (his 38.1 percent mark in 2014 was 10 percent lower than his career mark) in hopes of cashing in on a larger multi-year deal next offseason.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Dodgers’ reliever Brian Wilson, who is playing on a one-year, $10MM deal that includes a $9MM player option for next season, showed a dramatic velocity drop in his outing last night. The usually hard-throwing Wilson only topped 90 mph on one fastball, though he was throwing in a blowout. As Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports (via Sulia), both Wilson and trainer Stan Conte have informed manager Don Mattingly that Wilson has no physical issues. Mattingly did say he was concerned with Wilson’s inconsistent production and velocity numbers, though he chalked it up to the fact that Wilson thrives in high-leverage situations. Wilson sports an unsightly 10.22 ERA through 12 1/3 innings, with 10.9 K/9 against 8.8 BB/9.
- The long-discussed “problem” of having four viable outfielders has finally manifested itself in Los Angeles, with Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Yasiel Puig all at full strength. (Indeed, the situation is only complicated further by fifth option Scott Van Slyke, who has outplayed all but Puig, and top prospect Joc Pederson, who has a 1.125 OPS at Triple-A.) Nevertheless, reports Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, GM Ned Colletti still does not appear inclined to make a move. “It’s a situation we’re going to have to deal with,” he said. “But we’re always going to be one injury away from not having to deal with it. It gives everybody a chance to take a breath, get a day.”
- In another area that could probably be classified as a rich man’s problem, Dilbeck asks whether Dee Gordon‘s improbably outstanding start to the year makes for difficulties with top free agent signee Alex Guerrero. While Guerrero is swinging the bat well at Triple-A (.326/.386/.554 slash in 101 plate appearances), Colletti says his “defense is still something that needs to get better.” A position switch could be considered in the future, though nothing is impending. “We’ll decide at some point in time if we need to add more versatility to his defense to give him a better chance of getting here,” Colletti explained. Dilbeck notes that Guerrero, 27, will need to see MLB time in the near future if he is to return value on his $28MM deal, and wonders whether that contract would be attractive on the trade market.
- Starter Zack Greinke is well aware of the dangers of too much stress on his elbow, and has changed his entire approach in an effort to maintain his ability to throw into the future, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. In particular, Greinke has pulled back the use of his slider, saving it for more important situations. “In what I would deem a very important at-bat or a very important pitch, yes, I would throw the slider,” said Greinke. “But with the pitcher up and no one on, you might be able to strike him out with three pitches. DO you really want to throw three sliders to a pitcher? Is it really smart of me to expend full energy on a slider in that situation?” Interestingly, while Brown cites several pitchers who say they work at max effort all of the time (including Nathan Eovaldi and Clayton Kershaw), Greinke said he did not. “I don’t do that,” he said. “I don’t think I physically could. I pick my times.”
SATURDAY: The Dodgers officially announced Wilson's signing via press release.
THURSDAY, 9:19pm: Wilson has passed his physical, so the deal is now official, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times tweets.
1:39pm: The Dodgers have reached an agreement with reliever Brian Wilson, tweets Yahoo's Tim Brown. It's a one-year, $10MM deal with a second year player option. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (on Twitter) that the option's value is $9MM, meaning that Wilson is guaranteed at least $19MM on this two-year pact. Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweets that Wilson has another $700K of incentives built into each year of the deal.
Though Wilson will be receiving closer money from the Dodgers, he's fine with setting up Kenley Jansen if that's how it works out, notes Brown. Paying Wilson closer money can be offset by the fact that Jansen will be paid more like a setup man, as he projects to earn $4.8MM in arbitration this offseason, per MLBTR's Matt Swartz.
Wilson signed a $1MM, Major League contract with the Dodgers on July 30th last year after a long recovery from April 2012 Tommy John surgery. He returned in late August in dominant fashion, yielding just one run with a 21-to-6 K/BB ratio in 19 2/3 innings between the regular season and the playoffs. His strong showing put him in line for a significant payday on the free agent market, and there was widespread interest in the bearded flamethrower. The Tigers, Mariners and Rockies were among the other teams interested in Wilson.
Wilson's player option is a nice safeguard for he and his agents at the MVP Sports Group. Should he thrive in Los Angeles as he did over his brief tenure there in 2013, he will hit the open market in the 2014-15 offseason as perhaps the top closer on the free agent market, positioning himself for a significant payday entering his age-33 season. Should he fall to injury or suffer a down season, he can simply elect to take a $9MM payday and look to cash in heading into his age-34 season, which we've seen numerous relievers do. Wilson's $10MM guarantee is slightly more than the one-year, $8.5MM guarantee that MLBTR's Steve Adams pegged him for in his free agent profile of Wilson back in late October.
Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
TODAY, 10:07pm: The deal being discussed between the Dodgers and Wilson would guarantee one year and include a player option for a second, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter).
YESTERDAY, 12:06pm: The Dodgers and Wilson are only talking about a one-year deal, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale (Twitter link). That would allow Wilson to hit the open market in search of a multiyear deal next year, coming off a potentially strong season. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that Wilson has made it clear that he's willing to return as Kenley Jansen's setup man.
10:52am: The Dodgers are nearing an agreement with Brian Wilson, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports had recently tweeted that the two sides have been having discussions, noting that Joe Nathan's near-deal with the Tigers could accelerate the timetable.
Having fully healed from his second Tommy John surgery, Wilson returned to the Majors in August, signing a $1MM contract with the Dodgers. Wilson returned in dominant fashion, allowing just one run with a 21-to-6 K/BB ratio in 19 2/3 innings of work between the regular season and the playoffs.
The Tigers are moving toward a deal with free agent, right-handed reliever Brian Wilson, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports, though a deal has not yet been reached. Wilson and agent Dan Lozano met on Sunday in Los Angeles with new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, Henning adds.
With Joaquin Benoit and Jose Veras now on the open market after working from the back of the Detroit pen in 2013, the Tigers have been expected to be among the most active buyers of late-inning relievers. Wilson, who will turn 32 in March, returned from his second Tommy John surgery late last year with the Dodgers, posting a 0.66 ERA in 13 2/3 innings. He registered 8.6 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 in that stretch. Wilson checked in at 47th on MLBTR's Tim Dierkes's list of the top fifty free agents.
The Mariners' search for a closer has them in the market for right-handers Brian Wilson and Grant Balfour, among others, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The Mariners are known to be in the market for a ninth-inning arm this winter, and Wilson and Balfour represent two of the highest-profile names at the position.
Wilson, 32 in March, returned in late August and fired 19 2/3 innings of one-run ball between the regular season and the playoffs for the Dodgers. Wilson whiffed 21 hitters and walked only four, flashing an average fastball velocity of 93.2 mph. His strong showing likely helped to convince teams that his second Tommy John surgery is safely in the rear-view mirror. He's caught the interest of the Tigers, Rockies and a slew of other teams.
Balfour, 36 next month, saved 62 games for the 2012-13 A's en route to a 2.56 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. The Yankees, Tigers, Rockies, Rays and Angels have all already expressed interest in the Australian hurler, who is expected to sign with a new team due to the fact that he'll be too pricey for the A's.
It's a crowded market for relievers, but each can make a case for a multiyear deal. In general, it'd seem beneficial to sign early in the offseason, as this year's free agent class is rife with closer types, led by Joe Nathan.
For his latest Rumblings & Grumblings piece, ESPN's Jayson Stark spoke with several executives about the ultimate destination of Robinson Cano. One NL executive said: "I keep hearing there's no interest. I don't believe it." Stark agrees and hypothesizes that the lack of a market for Cano has been well-crafted by the Yankees leaking their own seven-year, $168MM offer in reaction to Cano's $310MM demand. One AL exec told Stark: "If you had a situation where everyone remained objective and everyone played it smart and you had teams that thought they could sign Robinson Cano for $120 million, you'd probably have five or six teams in on it. Then you'd set $120 million as the starting point and start the bidding, and see how much higher it gets." Stark feels that by starting the bar high, the Yankees have set the early market to a market of one. The same NL exec who didn't buy the lack of interest said that eventually teams who are chasing Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann will say, "Wait a second. Cano's a much better player than those guys," and change direction. Stark runs down some possible late-emerging suitors. Here's more from his excellent piece…
- Stark reports an unknown wrinkle in the David Price trade saga. Price signed a one-year, $10.1125MM contract to avoid arbitration last January, but $5MM of that sum comes in the form of a signing bonus that is deferred to next year. While it was presented as a tax-related issue at the time, Stark notes that the Rays can use it as leverage in a trade, agreeing to take a slightly lesser package if the acquiring team pays that additional $5MM.
- The Phillies upped the ante and guaranteed Carlos Ruiz a third year because they were convinced that he would sign with the Red Sox if they didn't. The Phils looked hard at alternatives but were highly uncomfortable with the prices on other targets. For that reason, other teams haven't been as critical of the deal, though they've all offered high praise to Ruiz's agent, Marc Kligman.
- The Ruiz contract helps both McCann and particularly Jarrod Saltalamacchia, agents and an AL executive told Stark. Stark has heard that one reason the Red Sox were so interested in Ruiz was that they don't want to commit more than two years to a catcher, suggesting that Saltalamacchia is a goner in Boston.
- The Tigers' search for a closer has begun to lean more in favor of Brian Wilson than Joe Nathan, but Wilson's agent, Dan Lozano, may want to wait out the market, which isn't GM Dave Dombrowski's style, Stark points out.
- Bartolo Colon and agent Adam Katz aren't rushing into one-year contracts as they wait to see if someone will tack on a second guaranteed year in the wake of Tim Hudson's two-year, $23MM deal.