With the free agent re-signings of Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan, the San Francisco Giants' lineup remains very much intact. Other than shopping around for another outfielder, there is little question who will be playing where in 2013.
The only question mark that remains: Who will be the Giants' closer?
The organization wisely allowed (former?) closer Brian Wilson to explore free agency. After his second Tommy John surgery, Wilson's ability to rebound and recapture his former prowess on the pitching mound is questionable.
The Brian Wilson situation is strange, but the stalemate makes sense. Both sides believe they have leverage. The Giants won a World Series without Wilson. Wilson can conceivably make a lot more money signing with another team. Wilson's return hinges on his market value to other teams in MLB with more of a need for an above-average closer. And many teams might be more willing to hedge their bets in terms of WIlson's performance upon returning from injury. He came back once; he could come back again.
Whether Brian Wilson returns to San Francisco or not, manager Bruce Bochy has expressed that Sergio Romo will secure the spot as team closer.
Given Romo's 2012 effort, most notably in the playoffs, this decision makes a lot of sense.
Romo has been waiting in the wings for the closer role since Brian Wilson went down with an injury at the outset of the 2012 season. RHP Santiago Casilla was given the nod over Romo but lost the position after inconsistent performance. The bullpen then went to a "closer-by-committee" system, with Romo eventually emerging as the go-to guy in the ninth inning. It was Romo who pitched the last three outs of the World Series, and he earned the honor.
One of Romo's best assets as a closer is his ability to pitch with success against both righties and lefties. In 2012, righties hit .192 against Romo. Lefties hit .167.
The only concern in plugging Romo into the closer role is his stamina and ability to remain healthy with an increased work load. He has had knee problems in the past and averages 57 innings pitched per year. As a comparison, Brian Wilson averages 69 innings pitched.
Sergio Romo as the closer leaves Casilla, LHP Jeremy Affeldt, and LHP Javier Lopez as their most consistent middle-inning relievers. RHP George Kontos, a midseason acquisition from the Yankees, supplements the proven core.
If Brian Wilson were to return, his initial role appears to be as a set-up man. The last time Wilson took on this job was in the eighth inning of the 2010 All-Star game, when he pitched ahead of former Los Angeles Dodger's closer Jonathan Broxton. Wilson was able to push his ego aside in 2012, riding the bench as an excellent cheerleader and presence in the clubhouse throughout the playoffs. He has a reputation of competitiveness and wanting to win above all else, and all signs point to him being a team player. However, it's a lot to ask to not only accept less money but also a lesser role on the team.
The murkiness of Wilson's place in the bullpen does not bode well for his return to the city by the bay, especially if offered more money elsewhere. Romo is an excellent closer option, and the Giants have proven they can succeed in a closer-by-committee format.