If recent rumors are true, the Detroit Tigers may be inching toward a solution at closer with the flamboyant Brian Wilson, formally of the San Francisco Giants and perhaps soon formally of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
For many, that news represents a definite frustration of sorts. Joe Nathan, after all, has been Detroit’s main darling since the season ended and he joined the free agent market. Nathan himself has been recruited by Torii Hunter, has gushed about the Tigers’ history, fans and lineup. The fans believe Nathan, given his prior history in the division, will be a perfect fit. As many have said, though, perhaps Nathan is too obvious of a fit. At 39, he’s also aged and likely only has a few more quality years remaining.
Sneakily, Wilson might end up being the better fit in many different ways. He is only 31, and despite his notable issues with Tommy John surgery, rebounded nicely last season for the Dodgers down the stretch, when he posted a 2-1 record with a microscopic 0.66 ERA in 18 games. That was a solid dress rehearsal which proved Wilson is indeed ready to take the ball back for the ninth inning. All-time, Wilson has been lights out in the playoffs, posting s 2-0 record, six saves and 24 strikeouts without giving up a single run.
The key sticking point for the Tigers? Wilson’s price tag. Considering questions about his health and durability, Detroit might not have to commit the type of money that a team signing Nathan will undoubtably have to. Nathan’s probably looking for a three year, big dollar deal, while the Tigers could come together with Wilson on a two year contract for significantly less money. Given Wilson looked healthy last season and has the quirky mentality which often makes closers successful, it could prove to be a very underrated move and bring about a better long term return on investment.
With the money Detroit would creatively save on Wilson as closer, they could perhaps find a few other options for the bullpen, then turn their attention to the outfield. Perhaps they could add Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury or Carlos Beltran, or maybe they could explore a trade to add more payroll. Since nobody can say with certanty that a player like Robinson Cano is officially off the table, that option could be left open, as well. Regardless, saving money on a closer would go a long way towards the Tigers accpmplishing their objective of improving the team completely this winter.
This past October, the Boston Red Sox won a World Series with Koji Uehara as their ninth inning man. Prior to his 2013 playoff run, Uehara didn’t have much postseason success to fall back on. Wilson has already been there and done that with both the Giants and the Dodgers, but given his injury problems, could enter Detroit just as underrated an option as Uehara was for Boston. People wouldn’t expect him to have success, allowing him to fly under the radar. Doing that to a “certified ninja” might prove bad news to the competition.
With personality, solid playoff numbers, an underrated nature and almost certain contractual savings for 2013, the idea of signing Wilson and his legendary beard is looking like the ideal move. If Wilson ends up being the choice, don’t make the mistake of writing the move off immediately.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax