Brian Wilson's tenure with the Giants may be all but over, but his return to San Francisco may create problems.
The city of San Francisco has already experienced one controversy during the waning months of 2012 between 49er quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith. Yet another plausible controversy may be forthcoming.
When injured closer Brian Wilson was not tendered a contract during the initial phase of free agency, the Giants made a simple statement that they had found their closer in Sergio Romo. Romo had secured his role down the stretch of the 2012 regular season and into the Giants' World Championship run. Wilson was forced to be a spectator following news that he would require Tommy John surgery.
Wilson had expressed his upset at not being re-signed immediately by the team, and if the Giants were content to allow him to sign elsewhere, this issue would probably be soon forgotten.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman, Wilson expressed zero interest in returning to the Giants following the news. Instead, Wilson has expressed interest in the Red Sox, Angels, and Dodgers.
Yet, the Giants have publicly stated that they want Wilson back in 2013. The Giants' Vice President of Baseball Operations, Bobby Evans, made it known that they would like to see him return to San Francisco, albeit at a much lower price. Even manager Bruce Bochy planned on calling the disgruntled closer to smooth things out.
However, if Wilson ends up returning to San Francisco, the situation would be on the Giants' terms.
First, the eccentric Wilson would have to accept a short term contract for far less money than he would have hoped for. He made $8.5 million in 2012 and did not pitch past April. In addition, if he was offered an initial tendered contract, the Giants would not be able to cut more than 20 percent of his previous salary according to Baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement. Wilson missed almost all of 2012 and his recovery, while progressing, has been slow.
Second, the Giants would have to evaluate the scenario of having two top caliber closers competing for one job. If Romo had been merely effective in filling the closer role last season, Wilson's return to the Giants as their closer would be almost certain. Yet, Romo excelled in Wilson's stead, especially in the playoffs, where he recorded the final out of the Division Series, League Championship Series and the World Series. Furthermore, Romo has the personality and swagger often found in modern closers—the type of attitude necessary to pitching the final outs of close games.
Wilson still has the potential to be an elite closer. He posted 48 saves in 2010, his last full season, and has a lifetime ERA of 3.21. Certainly some team, if not the Giants, would be interested in offering Wilson a decent contract for 2013.
For the situation to work for Wilson and the Giants, either Wilson or Romo would have to accept a less important role. Given both pitchers' body of work and personalities, it is unlikely that either closer would be willing to enter the 2013 season as a set up man.
Of course, if Wilson signed elsewhere, this issue would probably be soon forgotten.