When the Giants declined to offer former closer Brian Wilson a contract last July, he was bitter about it – and rightfully so. After all, the 31-year-old Winchester, Massachusetts native was a huge part of the Giants successful run to their first-ever World Series title since moving to San Francisco in 1958. Wilson led the majors with 48 saves in 2010 and appeared in three of the five World Series games against the Texas Rangers. And who can forget the image of Wilson after the final out of the final game of that Fall Classic – much to the dismay of Dodger fans everywhere.
And then came the injury – “structural damage and an issue with the ligament in his right elbow” was the official diagnosis; an injury that required Tommy John surgery, the second of Wilson’s career. Many had doubts that Wilson would ever return to the majors after this second surgery – including Giants general manager Brian Sabean.
But Wilson worked hard after his second surgery, very hard – harder than most would even consider working. But when spring training 2013 rolled around, Wilson, who was now a free agent, never received so much as a phone call from Brian Sabean.
In the meantime, Wilson kept on working towards making his return to the majors, and he did it entirely on his own without any physical therapists or personal trainers.
“The last time I saw a doctor was the day of my surgery (on April 19, 2012),” said Wilson during an interview last month. “I mean I knew what it was like coming in the first time and I didn’t really want to listen to anybody on statistics of the second Tommy John. I’d just do what I did the first time, copy and paste and it would work out.”
…and it did.
On July 25, 2013 Wilson auditioned for several major league teams – the Dodgers were one of them, the Giants were not. On July 30, Wilson agreed to a $1 million contract with the Dodgers for the remainder of the 2013 season. He also agreed to prove his readiness by spending two weeks at the Dodgers spring training facility in Glendale, Arizona and then rehabbing in the minor leagues. He made his first minor league rehab appearance with the Advanced Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on August 7 – and he pitched great. He made three more rehab appearances with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes – and he pitched great. In fact, in his four rehab appearances, Wilson did not allow a run and gave up only one hit while walking none and striking out three in 4.0 innings pitched.
After doing all that he could do and going as far as he could go with his recovery from his second Tommy John surgery, all that was left for Wilson was the final test – the major leagues.
On August 22, 2013, just 23 days after being signed by the Dodgers, Wilson made his second MLB debut of his career against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park – and he pitched great.
Wilson appeared in 18 regular season games with the Dodgers and finished with a 2-1 record and an outstanding 0.66 ERA. He allowed only one earned run and eight hits while issuing only four walks and striking out 13 in 13.2 innings pitched. So efficient was Wilson that he replaced a struggling Ronald Belisario as the Dodgers 8th inning setup man for closer Kenley Jansen.
Thus far in the 2013 postseason, Wilson has appeared in three games, given up zero runs, allowed one hit, walked two and struck out four. Including his time with the Giants, Wilson has pitched 16.2 consecutive scoreless postseason innings – four shy of the MLB record held by John Rocker.
With all of this being said, you would think that Ned Colletti and the Dodgers would jump at the chance to sign Wilson to a contract extension and that Wilson would jump at the chance to re-sign with the Dodgers, especially since he lives in Los Angeles and because the Dodgers figure to be a contender for years to come, right?
Not necessarily so.
There is little doubt that Wilson wants to return to the closer role. There is also little doubt that Kenley Jansen has no plans to relinquish his closer role anytime soon. Is this reason enough for Wilson to seek employment elsewhere? That’s the million dollar question… or better yet, the multi-million dollar question.
Give me one good reason why Brian Wilson would not or should not seek (or deserve) a Brandon League-type deal. There isn’t one. Colletti gave League an insane 3-year/$22.5 million deal this past off-season and League is not (nor will he likely ever be) on the Dodgers postseason roster. Whereas signing Brian Wilson is among Colletti’s greatest moves as the Dodgers GM, signing Brandon League to his current contract is among his worst.
With a dozen or more MLB teams clamoring for a proven closer, you can bet that one of them (or perhaps all of them) will offer Wilson a contract well north of the Brandon League contract. In fact, there is speculation that Wilson may receive a 3-year offer in the $27 to $30 million range, which wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
With the Dodgers in the thick of an extremely intense NLCS the very last thing on Ned Colletti’s mind right now is/are contract extensions. But it’s safe to say that the moment the postseason ends for the Dodgers (hopefully with a World Series championship), Colletti may very well be the busiest general manager in all of baseball.
One thing is for certain – unlike Brian Sabean, Ned Colletti will be on the phone to Brian Wilson even before the champagne is dry in the Dodgers clubhouse.