More and more, I’ve come to the conclusion that the trade deadline is going to be quiet. The team is doing phenomenally, there’s few holes to fill, and there’s even fewer players out there to add. Sure, maybe Ned Colletti will talk the Phillies out of Cliff Lee, or the quiet whispers I’ve heard about Howie Kendrick will actually turn into something, but more likely than not, the only move we’re going to see is that the team will add a relief pitcher.
So while it’s likely that whatever reliever comes to town does so via trade, there remains the ever-present spectre of Brian Wilson looming, fueled by the realization that the Dodgers attended his workout at UCLA last week and quotes like this:
Wilson wants to land with a contender and is described as having an affinity for Los Angeles. Being that the Angels now are in sell mode, having dealt Scott Downs to the Braves on Monday, that leaves the Dodgers.
Now before we discuss the merits of any possible signing, we probably should discuss the elephant in the room: you hate him. Of course you do. He was a Giant, and not only was he a Giant, he was a huge part of their 2010 World Series title, even getting the final out. He’s a big weirdo with a giant, annoying, beard. He got into that thing with Casey Blake. He was in those tremendously irritating “Black Ops” Taco Bell ads. If Taco Bell was a place I would ever go to eat, ever, those ads would be enough to put a stop to that. I’M BLACK OPS.
If there’s such a thing as “good and evil” in the Dodgers / Giants rivalry these days, Wilson is probably the defining face of it. You can’t hate Buster Posey or Matt Cain, who are both outstanding players and reportedly solid people. You can’t hate Tim Lincecum, especially now that he’s a shell of himself, because he’s just too goofy. Hunter Pence? Maybe, but he’s been there for barely a year. Barry Zito? It’s too much fun to laugh at his contract. Pablo Sandoval? Sergio Romo? I guess? No, if there’s a recent villain of this rivalry, it’s Wilson.
So you hate Wilson, and I can’t really expect that any self-respecting Dodger fan would think otherwise, especially after we’ve been burned by years of Ned Colletti’s ex-Giants from Jason Schmidt to Juan Uribe to Eugenio Velez to Russ Ortiz to probably dozens more.
But know this: you hate him because he’s not been on your team. If Wilson did all the same things but had been on the Dodgers, you’d treat him like a folk hero. If Yasiel Puig was wearing black & orange while tossing bats and sliding into the plate on home runs, you’d despise him. It’s the way the sports world works, and that’s okay. Let’s just not pretend it’s anything otherwise.
As for me, I don’t really care all that much where players come from, and I’m not going to pretend that Jeff Kent‘s tenure as arguably the best second baseman in Los Angeles Dodger history was any less enjoyable just because he was Barry Bonds‘ running mate by the bay for years before that.
So now that we’re past that (and yes, I know some of you never can) the question goes back to standard baseball fare: is he worth the effort? When I first became aware of Wilson during the 2008 season, I mostly wrote him off as the worst example of what the “saves” stat could do. Sure, he saved 38 games, but he did so with a 4.62 ERA and a 3.93 FIP. Wilson walked too many and allowed too many homers to overcome a pretty decent strikeout rate.
But as much as I hated to admit it, Wilson really did become an elite closer in 2009-10. In 147 innings, he struck out 176 with a 2.27 ERA, limiting walks and homers to the point where he was worth 4.7 WAR combined. 2011 wasn’t nearly as good, with walks down and strikeouts up, but he also missed a month in August & September with right elbow soreness, and you imagine that’s not completely unrelated to the fact that the elbow popped in his second appearance of 2012, putting him down for Tommy John surgery which he is only just now returning from.
So you’re left with this: on one hand, this is a guy who’s really only been good for two years, not since 2010, and hasn’t really pitched in nearly two years. On the other hand, he was very good for those two years, and it’s not hard to think that the elbow played some role in that 2011 downturn. If you’re into “being battle tested,” he was nails during that 2010 postseason, striking out 16 in 11.2 scoreless innings.
We know that Wilson has offers from teams, and we know that he had wanted to come to the Dodgers last winter. We also know that the current bullpen has a bit of softness at the back end, so there’s room for improvement. As always, it comes down to price for me. If Wilson really wants to be a Dodgers, then a minimum-salary deal with perhaps a mutual option for 2014 makes sense. I can get past his San Francisco history and overall weirdness. If it also means that Colletti won’t trade Zach Lee for, I don’t know, let’s say Chad Qualls, all the better.
And if not? If he returns to the Giants or joins the Diamondbacks or Pirates or whomever? Then you may return to your regularly scheduled Wilson hatred.