Once one of the most polarizing figures in MLB, and a key cog in the Giants' 2010 championship run, it appears Brian Wilson's time with San Francisco could be up, and the Dodgers and Red Sox have emerged as early potential landing spots.
After making $8.5 million last season, the Giants are required to offer Wilson 80 percent of that in his final year of arbitration ($6.8 million). All signs point to the Giants non-tendering him as a result, and according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, Wilson is likely headed elsewhere for 2013.
Sergio Romo proved more than capable in Wilson's absence, and the Giants have a deep bullpen behind him, led by Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez, so parting ways with Wilson is not all that big of a blow to the roster.
Where does Wilson go from here? He will likely have to accept an incentive-laden deal seeing as he is not expected to be ready for the start of the season after coming off of Tommy John surgery.
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports tweeted that the Dodgers would be Wilson's first choice, as he lives in LA during the offseason. Meanwhile, Buster Olney of ESPN points to the Red Sox, the team Wilson grew up rooting for, as a potential landing spot.
So of those two, which team is the better fit for Wilson to reestablish himself as a premiere reliever, and position himself for a big contract down the line?
For the Dodgers, Brandon League was already re-signed this offseason to a three-year, $22.5 million contract.
An All-Star in 2011 when he saved 37 games, League lost the closer job in Seattle last season before being dealt to the Dodgers at the trade deadline, where he saved six games and posted a 2.30 ERA over 28 appearances.
That strong performance earned League the closer job, but if he struggles again, the Dodgers have a number of internal options that could be given a crack at pitching the ninth inning.
Kenley Jansen saved 25 games with a 2.35 ERA and 13.7 K/9 last season before a heart condition limited him down the stretch, but when healthy he may be the team's best ninth inning option.
The Dodgers also have Javy Guerra, who saved eight games last season and 21 games as a rookie in 2011, though his stuff is better suited for a setup role.
While League is far from a sure thing in the ninth inning role, and even if he struggled, Wilson would not be guaranteed the next crack at the ninth inning job.
Wilson would get a chance to show what he can do for a potential contender, but he may not even be a setup man—let alone a closer—with the Dodgers.
Then there are the Red Sox, the team that let Jonathan Papelbon walk last offseason and acquired Andrew Bailey from the Oakland A's to fill the ninth inning role.
However, injury kept Bailey on the sidelines until late August, and upon his return he appeared in 19 games, going 6-of-9 on save chances with a 7.04 ERA.
In the three years prior to last season, Bailey had a 2.07 ERA and had converted 75-of-84 save chances, so one can expect a bounce-back season from the 28-year-old right-hander.
Behind him, the team has more questions than answers as Junichi Tazawa (37 GP, 1.43 ERA) and Andrew Miller (53 GP, 3.35 ERA) are expected to fill the setup roles, but both are largely unproven commodities to this point.
So for Wilson it comes down to a Dodgers team—where he has a better chance at championship contention but may have to serve in a middle relief role—or a Red Sox team, that appears to be a few steps behind the rest of the AL East but would offer Wilson a chance to pitch the eighth inning while likely being next in line to close if Bailey falters.
Likely to sign a short-term deal and shoot for improving his stock, the Red Sox appear to be the better fit for Wilson to showcase his abilities in the late innings, and position himself on the 2014 free-agent market.