2014 MLB Free Agent Profile: Brian Wilson

Harry How

Could the NL East be "fearing the beard" in 2014?

There is no bigger personality in Major League Baseball than that of reliever Brian Wilson. The flamboyant former Giants and Dodgers closer will hit free agency this year, and there could be interest from the Mets if Bobby Parnell has residual effects from the neck surgery he had this year.

Wilson broke into MLB in 2006 with a plus fastball and a cutter with a ton of movement. His early career was largely a struggle, as he walked far too many people, even though he consistently posted excellent strikeout rates in the minors and in the majors. After bouncing around between the minors and majors in 2006, he was given the opportunity to win the closer's role against Armando Benitez in 2007. He was ultimately sent back to the minors, only to be recalled later in the season and finish the year with a 2.28 ERA as the Giants' set-up man.

In the following 3 years, Wilson was able to bring his strikeout rate over 10 per nine ninnings, while dropping his walk rate as low a 3.13 in 2010. That year, Wilson cemented his place as one of the best closers in baseball. He pitched to the tune of a 1.81 ERA with 11.21 strikeouts per nine innings. He continued his mastery in the playoffs, where, after blowing a save in the NLDS, he did not give up a run for the rest of the postseason.

Wilson largely fell off in 2011 after straining an oblique, and as a result his strikeout rate decreased to 8.84 per nine, while his walk rate went up to 5.07. In 2012, he had Tommy John surgery, effectively ending his time in San Francisco. Wilson signed with the Dodgers in 2013 and appeared in his first game on August 22nd. In 18 games with the Dodgers, Wilson pitched phenomenally with a 0.66 ERA.

The Cost

Coming off an injury, it's somewhat tough to get a feel for what a team will pay for Wilson. He is reportedly looking for three years, which seems like a stretch after his past two seasons. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Wilson will get a deal similar to Joe Nathan's last deal: two years, $14.75 million. That doesn't seem outrageous.

The Fit

It seems hard to believe that Wilson would be a likely target for the Mets. When a team is in rebuilding mode, north of $7 million seems like a considerable gamble on a relief pitcher coming off injury. This strikes me a move that a team who believes they are "one piece away" would make. The Mets especially would be unlikely to go after Wilson if they feel that Vic Black or Jack Leathersich are ready to take over late-inning duties should Bobby Parnell falter.

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