While everyone waits for Jon Lester to decide where he’ll pitch for the next six-plus years, there are conflicting reports circulating about the availability (or lack thereof) of Los Angeles Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson.
While it would make sense for the Angels to move Wilson’s salary if the club is hoping to make a play for Max Scherzer or James Shields, it’s also entirely possible that his availability is just the type of hotel lobby rumor that tends to crop up every year at the Winter Meetings.
That having been said, if the Angels do decide to make Wilson available, it’d be wise for teams that are priced out of the Lester and Scherzer sweepstakes to kick the tires, especially if they can get the Angels to eat any of his salary in a deal.
No one will confuse Wilson for a legitimate ace, but he has been a very solid #2 or #3 starting pitcher since moving to the rotation full-time in 2010 with the Texas Rangers.
In five years as a starter, Wilson has posted a very respectable 3.56 ERA, 1.307 WHIP, and a 2.07 K/BB ratio.
While those numbers don’t jump off the page, it is worth noting that Jon Lester, who is probably going to sign a six-year, $150+ million dollar deal in the next 24 hours, has career stats that include a 3.58 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, and a 2.67 K/BB ratio.
Yes, that is better that Wilson, but those numbers were brought up by Lester’s monster 2014 campaign, just as Wilson’s stats are drug down due to his less-than-stellar year in 2014.
If you compare the two between 2010 and 2013 the numbers are very similar:
Obviously, you can’t ignore either player’s 2014 stats, but it’s clear that there are some similarities between the two.
That said, it’s also clear that I’m cherry-picking some stats here and, by a number of margins, Lester is still the better pitcher, but again, that’s not what I’m arguing here.
The point that I am trying to get across is that Wilson still has significant value to a team in need of pitching depth.
Any team looking to add the Southpaw will want to keep in mind that he’s been prone to the long ball a number of times throughout his career, especially last year when he posted a 11.3% HR/FB ratio. That number is higher than his career average of 9.2%, but he’s already pitching in a stadium that depresses offense, so potential suitors will want to keep that in mind.
For what it’s worth, Wilson’s xFIP and FIP indicate his 4.51 ERA was higher than it should have been, due in part to his .306 BABIP that was roughly 15 points higher than his career average.
While it would be easy to put it on all bad luck, there’s no denying that Wilson does have his flaws, but he was also worth 3.2, 2.0, 5.4, and 4.3 WAR in his previous four years as a starter prior to his disastrous 2014 campaign.
At 34-years-old, there is definitely the possibility that 2014 was the beginning of a permanent regression, but he spent the early part of his career as a reliever and has fewer miles on his left arm than many of the other free agent options.
The biggest obstacle for a team looking to acquire Wilson figures to be his salary. The lefty still has two years and $38 million remaining on the five-year, $77.5 million deal he signed prior to the 2012 season.
Further complicating a potential trade for Wilson is that his contract allows him to block trades to eight unidentified clubs. Players often waive no-trade clauses in exchange for an extension or bonus, but it’s hard to imagine a team wanting to commit additional years or dollars to acquire Wilson.
It’s also believed that, with so many free agent pitchers still on the market, the Angels have no interest in eating any of that salary if they do move him.
Obviously that could change once the market begins to shake itself out, but if the club holds that line, Wilson should be available for a menial return and not a top prospect.
I’m not advocating for a team to view Wilson as “the missing piece” to a championship run, but if he’s available and the Angels are looking for a straight salary dump, he offers a team 200+ innings as a solid mid-rotation starter at a cost of significantly fewer years and dollars than the other pitchers on the market.
It may not be as splashy as landing Lester or Scherzer, but it could prove just as beneficial if Wilson regains his 2010-2013 form as the poor man’s Jon Lester.
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