Free agent lefty C.J. Wilson, who missed the entire 2016 season due to shoulder surgery that repaired fraying in his labrum and rotator cuff, began a throwing program last month, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The longtime Rangers and Angels hurler could work out for big league clubs at some point in February, Rosenthal adds.
Certainly, there’s cause for teams to express concern about a 36-year-old pitcher that has undergone not only the aforementioned shoulder surgery but also surgery to remove bone spurs from his pitching elbow since last setting foot on a Major League mound. However, Wilson has a lengthy track record of quality results in the American League West, and most recently pitched to a 3.89 ERA across 132 innings with the 2015 Halos.
Though he’s battled injuries in recent years, Wilson was a durable workhorse in Texas and Anaheim from 2010-14, averaging 33 starts and 204 innings per season while compiling a 3.56 earned run average with 7.9 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9. He’s traditionally displayed strong ground-ball tendencies, and while he’s long carried some degree of platoon split, he’s held right-handed batters in check well enough to maintain a rotation role since 2010. At worst, Wilson’s excellent track record against lefties (career .199/.284/.286 slash line) would seem to suggest that he could function as a bullpen piece if he’s able to prove healthy enough to return to the Majors this season. However, while Wilson is no stranger to the bullpen, having spent the first five years of his career working primarily in relief, I’d imagine a number of clubs will want to first give him a shot to return to the rotation.
It’s unlikely that any interested club would simply pencil Wilson into a rotation spot, but if he’s healthy enough to showcase for interested clubs next month, he should have the opportunity to audition for a team in Spring Training. Wilson has been linked to the Marlins on multiple occasions this winter, but while they still need a southpaw in the bullpen, they’ve since added Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke to their rotation picture.