Free agent profile: C.J. Wilson

There’s much debate over whether Wilson is a “true ace” or not, but the bottom line is that he’s been the number one pitcher on the two-time defending American League champions for the majority of the past two seasons (excepting Cliff Lee‘s brief time in Arlington). This season the Rangers were third in the A.L. in FIP by starting pitchers, despite playing in a very hitter friendly ballpark. And Wilson was no slouch either, with an ERA/FIP/xFIP line of 2.94/3.24/3.41 in 223.1 innings pitched, backed up by a K/9 of 8.3 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.83. In other words, he had a really good year.

On the other hand, this is just Wilson’s second season as a starter, and as the local media has become all too happy to point out, he hasn’t been at his best in the postseason. Including both 2010 and 2011, Wilson has a 1-5 record with a 5.32 ERA over 45.2 innings in October. Of course, small sample caveats apply and all that, but other than sheer randomness I don’t really have an explanation for it. I had wondered if maybe Wilson wasn’t showing fatigue, given that he was a new starter and all, but his numbers this September were quite good, so I don’t know that there’s any evidence for that. Nor do I necessarily think it’s the case that he’s struggling with better offenses. The Rays knocked him around in Game 1 of this year’s ALDS, and they had a basically league average offense. Of course, randomness is a perfectly fine explanation, so we’ll just stick with that. Especially since he wasn’t actually that bad in 2010, once you account for the fact that Ron Washington probably left him in an inning too long in Game 1 of the ALCS.

The biggest knock I can see against Wilson is that it’s just so hard to predict how he’ll pitch going forward, given that he has such a short track record as a starter. And while his 2011 was fantastic, his 2010 was merely good. Not bad by any means, but he walked a full batter more per nine innings than he did in 2011 while striking out nearly a full batter less. On the other hand, his home run rate was actually a little lower, so he still had a very solid 3.56 FIP in 204 innings. And as others have noted, the fact that he’s a recently converted starter means that he has less mileage on his arm than your average free agent.

Ultimately the biggest question about Wilson is going to be what the market for him looks like, and how much money he’ll command. Though early reports have talked down the level of interest in Wilson, I wouldn’t be surprised to see figures pushing $100 million once free agency actually opens. That’s probably a litte much for the Yankees, given the current state of the roster, but if the numbers stay in the $80-90 million range, I can see the Yankees making a big run at Wilson. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet, though I freely admit that my judgment is being clouded by the fact that Cole Hamels is the left-handed starter I truly covet. There’s no guarantee he makes it to free agency though, so if the Yankees can work out a deal on the level of 5 years for $80-90 million, that would probably represent a very good deal for them.

15 thoughts on “Free agent profile: C.J. Wilson

  1. jay_robertson

    Please, no. I know – SSS and all – agreed, I only watch Texas when the playoffs come around and/or when they play the Yankees. But c'mon – the Yankees have a sweet deal with a good right fielder – yet folks want to ditch him because he disappears in the post-season.

    Yet now we're going to sign another 5 year contract with a pitcher who is 1-5 in October? One who did NOT look that good in his first WS game this year? Seriously – he looked to have all the control of AJ; I can just see the posts a couple years down the road if we sign him.

    Darvish. Or even Colon II. Anyone but AJ Wilson. Shoot – sign Buehrle to a year, or even Javy – with a boatload of incentives. I'd much rather have a semi-competent bridge to the Killer B's than have another AJ/Pavano/Brown contract.

    • John

      I'm with you Jay. There is something with CJ that just doesn't sit right with me. But I can't put my finger on it. I think Darvish could translate well to the Majors so I'm cool with that, and Hamels is a no brainer if he winds up hitting the market. Buehrle would be a good veteran presence if he can be gotten for 1-2 years for the right price.

      Luckily I don't make these decisions. I just get to sit back and see what happens.

  2. JTJ

    I'm not that keen on CJ Wilson. Bring back CC and then sign Darvish. Bring back Martin on a two yr deal to help break in Montero. Montero is the new DH when he's not catching. When he is catching, we can rest the Vets Arod, Jeta and Tex at DH. Also get me a top flight lefty specialist and we're good to go!

  3. Gene

    No one can really make a fair assumption on Darvish and whether he can make a good transition into MLB should he even be posted by his Japanese league team. I do not want the Yankees to sign Wilson to a long contract thats going to tie up a rotation spot and alot of money over the next 5 or so years. Don't forget the Yankees have 4 rotation spots claimed already for next season with CC (assuming he doesnt opt out) Nova, Hughes and Burnett (like it or not hes not going anywhere). Also the Yankees have a staff full of AAA pitchers who are ready to challenge for a big league rotation spot. Lest we forget Betances and Banuelos coming on soon. Brackman's going to end up in the pen. Also what gets lost in last season was the fact that Martin hit .238 on the year. I admit, it was nice to see some defense behind the plate but a .238 average from a full time starter on a playoff team is pitiful. That being said, Martin is still eligible for arbitration so there is no need to give him a multi-year deal.

    • RabidWookie

      Teixeira hit .239…

      • Gene

        Tex hit .248 and thats probably the biggest thing the yankees need to fix this offseason. find a way for teixeira to swing the bat without completely bailing out towards the dugout so he stops popping these fat pitches up

  4. David

    With Oswalt now being on the market, is he worth the risk?

    • jay_robertson

      for a year? why not? Five years at $20M per year – no, not so much.

  5. Michael

    I am glad there is finally an article that doesn't treat the fact that he has been a 2 year starter like its a good thing. When the debate to sign this guy comes up everyone in favor seems to bring up that you know what your getting as opposed to say Darvish. As illustrated in the 3rd paragraph of this article, no one really can predict how he will do going forward. But as long as we are taking risks on pitchers with cloudy futures, shouldn't it be on the kid whose best days are most likely ahead of him? Who has a higher upside? Who is younger? Personally I prefer Darvish.

  6. Boni

    Sign Oswalt and Buerhle for one-two years each for just a about the same amount of money as the first two years of the wilson deal. Of course it's the last two years I'd want to get out of paying…

    • Jacques

      agree, I'd prefer a two-year deal on Buehrle than toss $50-60 million auction bid on Darvish or 6-7 year deal on Wilson. That is, assuming CC comes back.

  7. Norm

    I'd be very, very skeptical about signing someone like Wilson. The Yankees have gotten burned again and again signing pitchers based on one good year. Carl Pavano, Jared Wright, AJ Burnett, the list goes on and on. The fact Wilson has struggled two years in a row during the post-season makes me wonder if he has the make-up to do well in a pressure cooker like NYC. The Yankees don't need any more players that put up good numbers during the season but disappear during the playoffs. We seem to have enough of those (A-Rod, Swisher, Texiera, among others) already.

  8. jay_robertson

    Just occurred to me. (I'm slow – I know.) So everyone is big on Wilson because HE USED TO BE A RELIEVER. And now he's an "ace."

    Don't the Yankees have a slightly overweight reliever who used to be a starter? Maybe HE COULD BE A STARTER!

    I know – but to throw money at AJ the 2nd – why not our own "converted reliever" solution?

    • Gene

      that is just way to simple of a solution for the Yankees to even think of doing it

  9. SID!

    How many great starters do we supposedly have in the minors? Noesi, Brackman, Betances, Banuelos…sign a few cheap one to two year bridges like Oswalt, maybe suffer a little for a year (and probably still make the playoffs), and see what happens after that.

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