Brian Wilson Is a Perfect Fit for Detroit Tigers at the Right Price

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Brian Wilson #00 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts in the eighth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 16, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers need to upgrade their bullpen, and it seems like they have found a perfect fit in Brian Wilson. However, a bad contract can make things uncomfortable in a hurry.

ESPN's Buster Olney was the first to report the team's interest in the veteran pitcher:

However, talks have heated up recently, according to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News:

The Tigers are moving toward a possible deal with free-agent bullpen closer Brian Wilson, The Detroit News has learned.

A source told The Detroit News that negotiations with the ex-Dodgers and Giants reliever were serious. The source requested anonymity because a deal had not been reached.

Wilson has been one of the most intriguing players in baseball over the past few years, although that mostly includes his interesting antics off the field. As a player, he has been one of the steadiest relievers in the league.

From 2008-2011, he was among the most dominant closers in the majors with 163 saves for the San Francisco Giants. In 2010, he finished with a 1.81 ERA and led the league with 48 saves en route to helping him finish seventh in the Cy Young voting.

He even earned some MVP votes that season as he was a key part to the Giants run to a World Series title.

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01:  (L-R) Brian Wilson #28 and Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants celebrate with the World Series trophy in the locker room after the Giants won 3-1 against the Texas Rangers in Game Five of the 2010 MLB World Series at
Pool/Getty Images

However, Wilson hit a bump in the road when he underwent Tommy John surgery shortly into the 2012 season. He only pitched two innings that year and then missed most of 2013 before returning to the big leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The good news is that he excelled as a setup man last season, only allowing one run in 13.2 innings. He did not have the same velocity he used to, but Wilson seemed to have better control with a strikeout-to-walk ratio far above his career average.

While this was a small sample size, he still showed that he can get people out at the major league level.

This makes him a perfect fit for the Tigers, who are looking to solve one of their biggest weaknesses from last season. Detroit ranked 24th in the majors with a 4.01 bullpen ERA to go with a 17-25 record.

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 16:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Detroit Tigers reacts  against the Boston Red Sox during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park on October 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Ima
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Joaquin Benoit stepped up big as the closer, but the 36-year-old free agent has been inconsistent as a middle reliever in his career and cannot be trusted to keep the closer role going forward. More to the point, the grand slam allowed to David Ortiz in the 2013 American League Championship Series is not a good lasting image among Tigers fans.

Instead, Wilson can be someone with a proven track record who comes in and solidifies the back end of the rotation. Based on his experience in both the regular season and the playoffs, the squad should be confident inserting him in the ninth inning.

Of course, this signing would still come with a great deal of risk. Although he pitched well last season, he has still only thrown 15.2 innings in the past two years. It is unknown if his body will be able to hold up over the course of the season.

Additionally, it's difficult to trust that his limited success from last season will continue going forward. There's also the possibility that the rest of the league will adjust to his diminished velocity.

The Tigers should resist giving him a multi-year deal for these reasons. A one-year contract for less than $10 million would provide the club with a reasonably-priced closer while also giving the team an out in case it is needed.

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 11:  Brian Wilson #00 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game One of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 11, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Im
Elsa/Getty Images

The organization certainly does not want to be on the hook for future money with such a risky acquisition. 

From Wilson's perspective, a one-year deal could give him a chance to prove himself for a full year before cashing in on a big contract next winter.

At 31 years old, Wilson could have many good years ahead of him. He has the experience and the repertoire that should allow him to succeed next season and be a huge addition to the Tigers.

As long as the deal is reasonable, Detroit should sign him as soon as possible.


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