Brian Wilson mid-pitch with the San Francisco Giants
The 30-year-old Wilson, who boasts a career 3.21 ERA and 171 saves, has proven himself to be a very clutch pitcher, which the Mets could certainly use. Over his seven-year career, Wilson has a total of only 25 blown saves. The Mets had 19 last season alone.
In an offseason that included a nine-figure contract extension of star David Wright and a blockbuster trade of Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, the Mets are also the only team who have yet to offer a major league contract to a free agent. Regardless of how much money Wilson may be offered, the New York Mets would be wise to sign him.
First, the Mets bullpen has been a disaster for years. Last year, Fangraphs.com ranked the Mets bullpen second to last in WAR, which is a sabermetric that attempts to measure a player’s total contribution to a team, with wins as the unit of measure. As a whole, the bullpen contributed minus-0.1 wins last year.
This is not to say Brian Wilson will turn the entire bullpen around. There is a reason Wilson is available at such a low price: he is still recovering from his second Tommy John surgery after pitching only two innings this past season. While the results vary greatly, the expected recovery time from Tommy John surgery ranges anywhere from one to two years. Wilson, who may take even longer to recover considering this is his second surgery, is finishing his 10th month of recovery.
Also, it is worth noting that Mets staff, which included GM Sandy Alderson, were not impressed by Wilson’s workout last week at UCLA, according to Mike Puma of NYPost.com. In the article, the unnamed source claimed that Wilson has “got a ways to go,” but also said if Wilson is still available during spring training the Mets could take another look at him.
Interestingly, Marc Carig of Newsday tweeted last Wednesday that the Mets “still haven’t closed the door on a major league deal” for Wilson. The Mets, though, have been very passive in free agency this offseason, and the source from Wilson’s workout likely holds more value at this point.
However, as the sabermetrics support, the Mets have nothing to lose in acquiring Wilson. The bullpen has been embarrassingly bad for years. And despite the current health issues, Wilson led the majors in saves as recently as 2010 with 48.
Meanwhile, Frank Francisco is trying to recover himself from an inconsistent and injury-riddled season as last year’s closer. With the rest of the bullpen as poor as it is, the addition of Wilson can only serve to help the team, both on and off the field.
During his tenure with the San Francisco Giants, Wilson became a fan favorite and garnered incredible fame, which included the very popular Fear the Beard T-shirts. The Mets have not had such a polarizing figure join the team for years. Having a player of Wilson’s appeal and credibility adds immediate fan interest, which the Mets could certainly use after ranking 17th in attendance last year.
Yet perhaps due to the vast financial troubles of the Wilpons, the Mets have not brought in big names and contracts in past years as other big-market teams.
As a result, the Mets are building up promising talent in the farm system that will debut in the coming years, rather than sign established major league talent to large contracts. Whether or not the prospects pan out remains to be seen. But Mets fans have become impatient with the lack of success of the team, and the addition of such an enigmatic character like Wilson will keep fans interested in a team that has been stuck in mediocrity for years.
If the Mets do sign Wilson, even to a major-league contract, and he does not pan out well, the Mets will have simply signed another player to keep up the team tradition of having a horrendous bullpen. Except this time, the Mets are signing a high-profile player who will bring passion, energy and veteran experience.
In the end, that is precisely why the Mets simply cannot lose if they acquire Wilson. The bullpen is so bad that regardless of Wilson’s on-field success, he is such a sensation and popular figure that bringing him to the Mets for a bargain will bring a good amount of positive publicity throughout the season.
Should the Mets take a chance on Brian Wilson?
These days, that is sadly a lot to ask for with the Mets. If he is able to recover his great form, then that will only be an added bonus. Realistically, though, he has the talent to still give some quality outings, but after two reconstructive elbow surgeries expectations should not be too high.
Mets fans would love for the Wilpons to show more of a commitment to winning now, and signing Brian Wilson would be the best of both worlds; he is the kind of low-risk, high-reward player that Alderson is more inclined to sign nowadays, and also the kind of big-name signing Mets fans have longed for, albeit with a few caveats.