The Tigers signed Jose Valverde to a minor league deal last week, giving the team another closing option for later in the season. They are currently going with a bullpen-by-committee approach while hard-throwing prospect Bruce Rondon gets some much-needed experience in Triple-A. Therefore, you can probably scratch Detroit off on the likely-destinations list for Brian Wilson.
And now you can probably add San Francisco as an unlikely destination for Wilson, considering he was a no-show for the World Series ring ceremony Sunday and reportedly never responded to an invitation.
Sounds like Brian Wilson never responded to Giants' invitation to get his ring today. Theriot unlikely, too.— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) April 7, 2013
As of early March, the team had not closed the door on a return. This, however, could end that chance.
The 31-year-old, who is closing in on a return from last April’s Tommy John surgery, had a 3.00 ERA and 10.1 K/9 with 169 saves (including six in the postseason) for the Giants between 2008-11 before being shut down early in 2012. He's in the prime of his career and would be a nice weapon for a contending team to have late in games.
With quite a few closer situations already up in the air early in the 2013 season, there may be a case of a couple doors closing (Detroit, San Francisco) while several others open. Injuries could also play a major part between now and the time he signs a contract. I also wouldn’t shut the door on an opportunity for Wilson to be the eighth-inning setup man on a top contender.
Let’s take a look at some potential destinations for Wilson.
Atlanta, already off to a 5-1 start, could be Wilson’s opportunity to be a setup man on a top contender. Craig Kimbrel is entrenched as the closer, but eighth-inning guy Jonny Venters’ season is in limbo, as he's undergoing an alternative method (platelet-rich plasma injection) of healing an elbow injury.
He’ll miss at least a couple months, if not more, removing a key element from the Braves bullpen. Newcomer Jordan Walden looks strong early on (3 IP, ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 4 K), but the Braves don’t have a group of starters who work deep into games, so they’ll need plenty of options in the late innings.
The Cubs covered themselves from another Carlos Marmol in-season meltdown by signing veteran reliever Kyuji Fujikawa out of Japan this offseason. Guess what? The meltdown has already happened, and Marmol was already removed from the closer’s role.
If Marmol can’t be trusted in the ninth, you probably shouldn’t trust him in the eighthinning either. That’s why he’ll be in mop-up duty for the time being. If he can’t bounce back, a very thin Cubs bullpen could put a team struggling to stay in the pennant race completely out of it in a month.
As long as the Cubs have any hopes that the standings will hold any sort of significance for them, they should consider bringing in Wilson to be their closer, with the potential to shop him to a contender later in the season.
It sounds like John Axford is already out as the team’s closer after a blown save on Opening Day followed by two terrible outings in nonsave situations. There is some concern over a drop of velocity.
Whether it's his mechanics or an injury, he'll try to work his way through the problems while not closing out games for the Brewers.
His likely replacement is 30-year-old journeyman Jim Henderson, who has pitched well (3.21 ERA, 13.1 K/9 in 39 appearances) since making his big league debut in 2012.
Like the Cubs, however, the Brewers bullpen is much stronger if the group, which includes right-hander Burke Badenhop and veteran lefties Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny, is kept in their current lower-leverage roles instead of being bumped up a notch to accommodate an Axford demotion.
Bringing in Wilson, who has a career 1.32 ERA in 27.1 innings against the current NL Central favorites—the Cardinals and the Reds—would allow the Brewers to keep Henderson in his current role while allowing Axford to ease his way into a late-inning setup role.
New York Mets
And here’s that early-season, small-sample surprise team that could be looking to upgrade the back of the bullpen in the hopes that they’ll need to hold a lot of leads late in games throughout the season.
Bobby Parnell is currently getting a shot to take the closer's job and run with it. But he’s been an inconsistent pitcher throughout most of his career, and there’s no telling how he’ll be able to hold up in his first full season in the role.
The Mets watched Wilson work out back in January, although he wasn't nearly 100 percent. They passed on pursuing him at the time, and GM Sandy Alderson was feeling confident about his current group.
Alderson: “I like the bullpen depth. It’s really about having someone close the game. Bobby Parnell and Brandon Lyon have done that.”— New York Mets (@Mets) February 13, 2013
Adding Wilson to the mix would push Parnell back into a setup role, where he succeeded in 2012 (2.49 ERA, 18 holds). If Wilson pitches well and the Mets fall out of the race, he could be traded to allow the 28-year-old Parnell to take back the job over the last two months of the season.
This would give the Mets plenty of time to assess him and decide if he’ll be the team’s closer of the future or if they’ll need to find one in the offseason.