Brian Wilson Rumors
4:25pm: In addition to Ruiz, Veras and Smith, the Rockies are also pursuing Brian Wilson, Renck reports in a new article. Colorado is prioritizing power arms to serve as a safety net for Rex Brothers or in order to use Brothers in a setup role where he could match up against lefties in tough situations.
Wilson returned on a $1MM contract with the Dodgers late in the season and totaled 19 2/3 innings between the regular season and the playoffs, allowing just one run and posting a 21-to-6 K/BB ratio. Earlier today it was reported that the Rockies are also interest in Grant Balfour.
9:10am: With Matt Belisle back in the fold after both he and the Rockies exercised their half of his $4.25MM option, the Rockies are eyeing right-handers Jose Veras and Joe Smith as pieces to help fix what was the worst bullpen in the NL last season, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Perhaps more interestingly, Renck adds that the Rockies are continuing their pursuit of backstop Carlos Ruiz and plan to offer him a multiyear contract this week.
The Rockies currently have Wilin Rosario at catcher, but bringing in Ruiz would allow them to give Rosario some additional at-bats at first base and perhaps in right field, writes Renck. The team considers Ruiz to be a clear defensive upgrade over Rosario, although one would imagine that Rosario wouldn't exactly be a swift defender in the outfield should be find playing time out there (then again, neither is incumbent Michael Cuddyer).
Smith, who turns 30 next March, is likely appealing to the Rockies due to his career 57.2 percent ground-ball rate. That number dropped much closer to the league average in 2013, checking in at 49.1 percent, but Smith compensated to an extent by topping his career rates in strikeouts (7.7 K/9) and walks (3.2 BB/9). Overall, his ERA sat at 2.29 in 63 innings of work the the Indians.
The 33-year-old Veras posted a career-best 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 41.2 percent ground-ball rate in 62 2/3 innings between the Astros and Tigers. Detroit made the surprising decision to buy out his club option last week, making an eighth team in nine seasons a very real possibility for Veras.
The Rockies' 4.23 bullpen ERA in 2013 was the worst in the National League and the third-worst in all of Major League Baseball. The team has already lost former closer Rafael Betancourt to Tommy John surgery, and last offseason's acquisition of Wilton Lopez didn't work as planned, as the former Astro pitched to a 4.06 ERA with a career-low 5.7 K/9 rate in 75 1/3 innings. Lopez figures to return along with Belisle, Adam Ottavino and likely closer Rex Brothers.
Brian Wilson didn't want to sign with a team until he felt that he was competely recovered from Tommy John surgery, and his late-season numbers with the Dodgers show he was just that. Wilson looked better than ever after signing with the Dodgers for just $1MM on July 30, serving as a lights-out member of the team's bullpen down the stretch and into the NLCS. His strong showing should position him for a nice free agent deal.
Small sample or not, Wilson was flat-out dominant in 2013. Between the regular season and the postseason, The Beard/Agent Double-Zero allowed one run on 12 hits and six walks with 21 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings.
Pitchers don't typically get their velocity back immediately following Tommy John, and Wilson's heat certainly wasn't at its peak upon his return. The good news, however, is that Wilson is an absolute flamethrower, meaning that "sub-par" velocity for him translates to a 93.2 mph average heater. That mark ranks him 11th among potential free agent right-handers with at least 10 innings pitched. Two of those arms -- Matt Lindstrom and Jose Veras -- could see their club options exercised. Others such as Joba Chamberlain and Carlos Marmol are coming off dreadful seasons. And teams will probably be more focused on Jesse Crain's shoulder than his 94.5 mph fastball.
Wilson has averaged at least 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings in each season dating back to 2008, and his ground-ball rate has never dipped below the league average in a full season.
Looking at his splits, Wilson has actually been better against lefties in his career, and it's tough to say that he's benefited from all of his innings in the spacious AT&T Park when his career 2.98 ERA on the road trumps his 3.21 home mark.
For teams that still place a heavy emphasis on "proven" closers, Wilson fits the bill. The Beard has registered 171 career saves -- a mark that only Joe Nathan, Kevin Gregg and Fernando Rodney can top among potential free agents. Gregg melted down in the season's second half, and Rodney has Wilson bested by exactly one save despite being five years older.
Wilson won't come attached to a draft pick, as it's highly unlikely that the Dodgers would tender him a $14.1MM qualifying offer.
I've already referenced it, but teams are evaluating Wilson on a sample size of just 19 2/3 innings. It's impossible to tell how his surgically repaired arm will hold up over a full season's workload. He appeared in back-to-back games five times but never pitched three consecutive days for the Dodgers. If he's looking for a ninth-inning gig, the ability to pitch three in a row will be critical.
Wilson's command was solid in 2013, but he's averaged 3.9 walks per nine innings in his career and was at a whopping 5.1 BB/9 in his last full season (2011). Even prior to his Tommy John surgery, his fastball velocity had dropped, as he was at 94.3 mph in that same command-challenged 2011 campaign -- down from 95.9 mph in 2010 and 96.6 mph in 2009.
The 2011 struggles with his command and velocity could be due to the beginning of his elbow issues -- he did spend a month on the shelf with an elbow strain that year. However, we haven't seen a full season's work out of him since, so stastically speaking, there's not much evidence to suggest that the elbow was the lone culprit.
Much has been made of Wilson's eccentric personality, which is seen as a positive by most of his teammates. Whether touting his epic beard or playing dominos with Juan Uribe and his other teammates, Wilson keeps the clubhouse light-hearted and fun. Wilson is as passionate about being a good teammate as he is a good pitcher. He enjoys mentoring younger pitchers and is a known workout fiend. During games, Wilson will often track the action in a scorebook from the bullpen. In high school, Wilson lost his father, an Air Force veteran, to cancer. Brian honors his father's memory with charitable contributions toward the Air Force Academy.
Wilson has the misfortune of entering free agency alongside a very strong group of relievers that includes Nathan, Rodney, Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit. While he's the youngest of the bunch, Wilson also comes with the most uncertainty, as he's yet to pitch a full season since recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
With so much competition, Wilson (and his peers) may struggle to find a ninth inning job on a two-year deal. He'd open his options considerably by showing a willingness to pitch on a one-year deal. If that were the case, his agents might be able to convince a team with a closer-in-waiting to delay the less-experienced arm's promotion to the ninth inning for a year. Others that have unspectacular incumbents, such as the Angels and Ernesto Frieri, may be willing to demote their current option to the eighth inning if Wilson can be attained.
If his goal is to sign a multiyear pact, Wilson and agents Dan Lozano and Matt Hannaford of the MVP Sports Group would be wise to pounce early in the offseason rather than shop around for the best fit. Doing so would maximize their chances at multiple years. Given the large amount of free agent closer options, it's better to act quickly than be left standing in January and taking a one-year deal.
Wilson will, to an extent, control his own fate this offseason. A team isn't likely to guarantee three years based on just 19 2/3 innings of work, no matter how impressive they were. Should he decide he wants a two-year contract, Wilson could find a deal similar to Joe Nathan's two-year, $14.75MM contract with the Rangers if he signs early in the winter (as Nathan himself did in Nov. 2011).
In my mind, the better play for Wilson, Lozano and Hannaford is to maximize his earnings on a one-year contract and enter the open market next season. A look at MLBTR's list of 2015 free agents shows that Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, Jason Motte, Chris Perez, J.J. Putz and Sergio Romo are the best surefire closers set to hit the market. Grilli and Putz will be 38. Johnson and Perez are current non-tender candidates based on their salaries. Motte is an unknown coming off 2013 Tommy John surgery. Rafael Soriano could be on the market, or his option could vest if he finishes 62 games next season. If Huston Street pitches well, his $7MM option will be exercised. If not, he won't be competition for Wilson anyway.
Wilson's relative youth gives him the luxury of taking a one-year contract and then positioning himself as the next offseason's top two closers, ironically alongside his Giants successor, Romo. My expectation is that Wilson will sign the same one-year, $8.5MM contract inked by Ryan Madson two years ago (perhaps with some additional incentives), then hit the market and look to cash in big in the 2014-15 offseason.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Pirates' failure to sign Mark Appel with the eighth overall selection in the 2012 draft created a ripple effect where the Mets passed on free agent Michael Bourn and eventually gave playing time to rookie Juan Lagares, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. As compensation for not coming to terms with Appel, the Pirates were awarded the ninth overall pick in this past June's draft, knocking the Mets' choice (11th) out of the protected Top Ten. This was an important considersation for the Mets in deciding to not bid on Bourn, explains Sherman, who cites this as a pefect example of "sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make." Here's news from other NL teams who aren't neccessarily going to follow that old adage:
- Ex-Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio (via Bowden on Twitter) he wants to continue managing and is open to all opportunities, including the Nationals.
- In that same interview (also from a Bowden tweet), Manuel says the Phillies' plan is to "reload," not "rebuild," needing regular players to fill holes, including adding a starter, and redoing the bullpen.
- Speaking of the Phillies, little has changed with the radio silence regarding their agreement with Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, who reported earlier this month the two sides have hit a snag in finalizing their six-year, $48MM deal.
- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters, including Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, they will have a better idea at the end of today when Brian Wilson will be activated. GM Ned Colletti was a guest of Bowden and Duquette on MLB Network Radio and said the call should be made in "another day or two" (as quoted by Gurnick's colleague, Andrew Simon). Colletti also explained he signed Wilson because he only cost money, not prospects, and there's a familiarity with him from his days as the Giants' closer. "We think it's a very low-risk, high-reward situation," said Colletti. "He wanted to be here. He has a home in L.A. Rivalry and all that aside -- we all know what that's all about -- he wanted to restart his career and we're going to give him that opportunity here in the near future."
- Four years and $60MM is the guess as to the asking price of Reds centerfielder Shin-Soo Choo in free agency this winter, tweets the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay. Choo placed fifth in MLBTR's most recent 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
- The Pirates have scouted Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu in three recent international tournaments and will be on hand for his expected September showcase, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We like him," GM Neal Huntington said. "It will be interesting to see where the bidding goes." That bidding could exceed $60MM.
The Dodgers signed free agent reliever Brian Wilson,tweets Yahoo's Tim Brown. It's a guaranteed big league deal, tweets ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, and Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio says it's worth $1MM plus performance bonuses. The Beard had a long road to recovery from April 2012 Tommy John surgery. He spent his entire career in the Giants organization, racking up 171 saves in the process. The Giants non-tendered him after last season, and the fully-recovered Wilson auditioned for many teams Thursday. Wilson had three offers, notes Brown. The 31-year-old reliever is represented by MVP Sports Group.
The Dodgers' bullpen struggled at the outset of the season, partially due to the decision to anoint Brandon League the closer. Kenley Jansen officially usurped that role in mid-June. The Dodgers have also gotten good work from lefties J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez.
The tentative plan for Wilson is to begin at the Dodgers' complex in Arizona, then go to Rancho Cucamonga as part of a rehab assignment, and then report to the Dodgers in two weeks, tweets Brown. In theory, the move could take the Dodgers out of the running for other, similar relievers available for trade.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
TUESDAY, 10:17am: The Dodgers are now the front runner to sign Wilson, tweets Nightengale.
MONDAY, 9:24pm: ESPN's Jim Bowden lists the Giants, Pirates and Dodgers as front-runners for Wilson (on Twitter).
8:58pm: Wilson has narrowed his decision to three or four teams and is in the "offer/counter-offer" stage at this point, Miller tweets.
7:10pm: The Pirates and Giants are both "serious suitors" for Wilson, who appears close to signing soon, according to Scott Miller of CBS Sports. Miller adds that the Diamondbacks and Dodgers have some level of interest as well, and he notes that Wilson "has an affinity for Los Angeles." The Phillies were also thought to have interest prior to the six-game skid that has pushed them firmly into their stance as sellers.
3:52pm: The D'Backs are not in on Wilson, tweets John Gambadoro of Sports 620 KTAR.
2:52pm: The Pirates and Diamondbacks are the strong front runners for free agent reliever Brian Wilson, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today, who notes that Wilson has offers from four NL teams and one AL club. Yesterday, Yahoo's Tim Brown noted interest from the same mix of five teams.
Wilson, 31, auditioned for teams Thursday with the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Athletics, Giants, Phillies, Rangers, Rockies and Cardinals in attendance. The former Giants closer had Tommy John surgery in April 2012.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Angels are "open for business," Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan tweets. That means deals for Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick and others could be on the table. It remains to be seen what the Angels might be able to do with less than three days before the deadline, but Kendrick would be a particularly attractive trade candidate -- his consistently high batting averages and solid defense make him a dependably productive player, and he's under contract through 2015 at a reasonable cost, making a bit over $9MM both in 2014 and 2015. Aybar isn't having as good a year as Kendrick, but he might make an interesting buy-low candidate. If the Angels are open to selling other players, reliever Scott Downs, who becomes a free agent after this season, would also be an obvious possibility, as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman suggested yesterday. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- With a 13-game deficit in the AL West and with Albert Pujols on the disabled list, however, the Angels have "nothing to sell," ESPN's Jim Bowden says (Insider-only). Several of their top players, like Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, aren't candidates to be dealt, and much of the rest of their roster has been disappointing, which is why they're 13 games back to begin with. That leaves a handful of relievers as the Angels' only viable trade pieces.
- If the Rangers want to trade Joe Nathan, the Dodgers are the only suitor that makes much sense, Bowden writes (Twitter links). Boston or Detroit could be possible destinations, but Bowden guesses that the Rangers won't relish the possibility of dealing Nathan to the Red Sox or Tigers and then having to face him in the playoffs. Instead, they could send him to L.A., possibly in a deal involving Andre Ethier.
- The Diamondbacks are looking for a second bullpen lefty, FOXSportsArizona.com's Jack Magruder tweets.
- Five teams, four of them from the National League, are interested in former Giants closer Brian Wilson, who's returning from Tommy John surgery, tweets Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown.
Brian Wilson auditioned for teams earlier today, and nearly a dozen clubs sent scouts to watch the former Giants closer, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Knobler writes that a scout in attendance said Wilson looked good and was "not far away" from being able to return to the Major Leagues. His fastball reportedly reached 93 mph on Thursday.
According to Knobler, the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Athletics, Giants, Phillies, Rangers, Rockies and Cardinals all attended Wilson's workout. Most of those teams have reportedly been on the lookout for bullpen help, and the Pirates are a logical new addition to that mix given the recent injury to Jason Grilli. The Giants held a private throwing session for Wilson "as a personal courtesy" earlier this week.
Wilson underwent his second Tommy John surgery after just two appearances in 2012 and hasn't pitched for a team since. He was scouted by the Mets in January, but the team was unimpressed. Wilson decided then to wait until he was back to 100 percent before auditioning for teams a second time. From 2007-12 with the Giants, Wilson racked up 170 saves and posted a 2.98 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 290 innings of relief.
Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels haven't heard anything new about Nelson Cruz's links to the Biogenesis scandal, but Daniels tells ESPN Dallas' Todd Willis that he has thought about the possibility of losing his right fielder to suspension. "We really are somewhat intentionally and maybe wisely in the dark on this. And so we we're going to sit back and wait for the best and try to make our club as strong as possible," Daniels said. If Cruz is indeed suspended for the rest of 2013, it could intensify the Rangers' search for batting help. In another piece from Willis, Daniels admitted that his club's offense hasn't been up to par and if Texas makes another move, it would likely be for a bat.
Here are some more items from around baseball...
- The Giants have shown no interest in trading Hunter Pence, ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets. We heard on Sunday that Giants were unlikely to deal Pence unless they received a blow-away offer or they fell out of the NL West race. The latter could be close to happening, given the Giants' 46-54 record.
- The Phillies will send a scout to Brian Wilson's throwing session on Thursday, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. GM Ruben Amaro said the team will leave "no stone unturned" in their search for relief help, hence their interest in Wilson's progress. Amaro noted this isn't the first time the Phillies have checked in on Wilson, who hasn't pitched since April 2012 due to Tommy John surgery.
- Justin Morneau's July slump has just about destroyed his trade value, Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities writes. Between Morneau's poor form, injury history, impending free agency and salary, Mackey doesn't think the Twins will be able to get even "a second-tier prospect" for the former AL MVP.
- The Dodgers are looking for veteran relief depth, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon reports, though Saxon notes that could even be a luxury piece given how the team is firing on all cylinders right now.
- If the Marlins are to trade Giancarlo Stanton, Metsblog.com's Matthew Cerrone hears that Miami wouldn't want prospects, but rather "equal value" -- a young star player who is controllable for longer than Stanton's three seasons of team control. For instance, if the Mets wanted Stanton, the Marlins would want Matt Harvey in return.
- Baseball America subscribers can read Ben Badler's scouting report on Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, the Cuban right-hander who has drawn interest from at least 10 teams.
The biggest news of the day from Fenway Park is Dustin Pedroia's seven-year, $100MM extension with the Red Sox, and we already have heard a lot of reaction to the big contract. While locking up Pedroia is a major long-term move for the team, the Red Sox could make a move for their immediate future by adding a reliever before the trade deadline. Here's the latest...
- The Red Sox are interested in Royals reliever Luke Hochevar and have been scouting the right-hander, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. The two teams haven't engaged in trade discussions, however, as the Royals aren't yet open to dealing their veterans. Hochevar, the first overall pick of the 2006 draft, has posted a 2.00 ERA, 9.5 K/9 and 3.8 K/BB ratio in 36 IP in his first season as a reliever. Hochevar is earning $4.56MM this year and will get an arbitration raise this winter, however, so he could be too expensive for the Royals to retain.
- The Sox had spoken to the Brewers about Francisco Rodriguez but thought Milwaukee's asking price was too high for a reliever who will be a free agent this winter, WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports. Boston will now have to deal with K-Rod in the AL East pennant race now that the veteran righty has been acquired by the Orioles.
- The Red Sox have no current interest in Brian Wilson, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports (via Twitter). The former Giants closer will be showcasing his arm for teams within the next few weeks as he attempts to return from Tommy John surgery.
- Brandon Workman has pitched well as a stopgap starter for Boston but manager John Farrell admitted that even if the righty keeps performing, it wouldn't stop the club from pursuing starting pitching help if necessary. “[GM Ben Cherington] will be aggressive in a situation in a deal that makes sense for us,” Farrell told reporters, including Alex Speier. “I wouldn’t pin our assessment of the trade market on Brandon Workman. He’s not the linchpin to whether we make a trade or not.”
With just over a week to the trade deadline, there's still been only one significant move for a reliever -- Boston's acquisition of Matt Thornton. Plenty of teams are on the lookout for bullpen help, however, including the Tigers, Red Sox, Braves, Diamondbacks and more. With a potential Jason Grilli injury last night, more bullpen rumors could begin to circulate. Here are the latest relief rumblings from around the baseball world...
- The Red Sox, Dodgers and Tigers are all keeping close tabs on Francisco Rodriguez, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. The Sox and Dodgers, in particular, were said by Crasnick to have scouts "all over" Rodriguez this week. Detroit, meanwhile, isn't as interested as it once was due to the strong recent performance of Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly (Twitter links).
- Former closer Brian Wilson threw for Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti and bullpen catcher Billy Hayes yesterday, according to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. The session was a personal favor to Wilson and not an indicator that a deal is coming, Baggarly writes. However, Wilson looked nearly Major League ready, and Baggarly feels that the willingness to afford Wilson this favor suggests that any ill will between the two sides following Wilson's offseason non-tender has subsided.
- The Braves continue to search for left-handed relief help, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio, who lists Oliver Perez, Mike Dunn, Glen Perkins, Scott Downs and James Russell as potential targets. Bowden notes that Perkins is unlikely, likely because of the numerous reports that the Twins won't move their closer.
- While the Twins aren't interested in moving Perkins, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves may have interest in another Minnesota lefty who may be available -- Brian Duensing (Twitter link). Duensing has two years of team control remaining and will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason.
- One more note from Crasnick, who tweets that the Braves also checked in on Phil Coke in their quest for lefty relief help, but nothing came of the talks with the Tigers. Coke has had a brutal season because of overexposure against right-handed hitters, but he's held lefties to a .231/.271/.346 batting line.
- For more on the relief trade market, check out my examinations of the market for left-handed relievers and the market for right-handed relievers. Also, for all fantasy players out there, be sure to follow @closernews on Twitter to keep up to speed with closer injuries, performance, usage and more.