If you would have told me a year ago that former Giants closer Brian Wilson would become one of the most revered Dodger players by the end of the 2013 season… or ever, I would have deemed you certifiably insane.
Well here we are, October 22, 2013, and there isn’t a Dodger fan out there who does not want to see Wilson, now a free agent, to be re-signed by Ned Colletti and the Dodgers – regardless of the cost.
How did we get from the insane asylum to the 2014 opening day roster? It’s a bit of a long and strange story.
During the 2012 season, the Dodgers had a difficult time trying to decide who their closer should be. Relative newcomer Kenley Jansen, a converted minor league catcher, showed flashes of being the guy but he had an unusual ailment – an irregular heartbeat, which landed him on the DL twice during the 2012 season. Jansen was replaced by Javy Guerra who also had moments of greatness until he was struck in the face by a line drive on April 25, 2012. Ironically, Guerra injured his right knee trying to avoid that liner – an injury that would eventually required arthroscopic surgery. Although Guerra eventually returned to the big leagues, he was ineffective and spent nearly all of the 2013 season at Triple-A Albuquerque, although he is still on the Dodgers 40-man roster.
Just prior to the July 31, 2012 trade deadline, the Dodgers acquired former Seattle Mariners closer Brandon League for minor leaguers Leon Landry and Logan Bawcom, both of whom were considered to be legitimate MLB candidates. Even though League had lost his closer role with the Mariners after an awful first half of the 2012 season, Colletti felt that with the right coaching League would return to being the dominating closer that he had been with the Mariners in 2011 when he saved 37 games and had an ERA of 2.79.
Although League started off with a bang in his first few outings with the Dodgers, he hit a wall and began to struggle… terribly. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt spotted a mechanical flaw in League’s delivery and as if by magic, League finished the season as good, if not better, than he had pitched in 2011 with the Mariners; so good, in fact, that Colletti gave now free agent Brandon League a ridiculous 3-year/$22.5 million contract shortly after the 2012 season ended – a contract that caused raised eyebrows throughout the baseball world.
League began the 2013 season as the Dodgers closer but struggled badly and after blowing his fourth save of the season on June 11 (exactly 11 days prior to that magical date of June 22, 2013), Jansen, who had successfully undergone off-season surgery for his heart issue, returned as the Dodgers closer and never looked back. Jansen finished the regular season with a 4-3 record and an outstanding 1.88 ERA, but more importantly, he earned 28 saves while striking out an unbelievable 111 and walking only 18.
Make no mistake about it – Kenley Jansen is the Dodgers closer.
…or is he?
On July 30, 2013, the Dodgers signed unemployed free agent Brian Wilson, not to be a closer as he had been during most of his seven years with the hated Giants, but to see if he could successfully return to the major leagues after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April of 2012 – the second such surgery of his career. Not only did Wilson make it back to the Bigs, he soared. Wilson finished the regular season 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. Wilson was so good, in fact, that he replaced Ronald Belisario as the Dodgers 8th-inning setup man for Jansen.
Herein lies the problem.
Wilson, who is once again a free agent, undoubtedly wants to again be a closer. In fact, he absolutely needs to be a closer. But with Jansen securely entrenched as the Dodgers closer and with as many as a dozen (or more) teams in desperate need of a good closer (and Wilson is a great one), it is highly unlikely that Colletti will be able to lure Wilson back to the Dodgers without a guarantee that he will close, not to mention a contract that will probably carry a 3-year/$27-$30 price tag.
This raises the question: Would Kenley Jansen be willing to take one for the team and yet again give up his closer role so that the Dodgers could re-sign Brian Wilson to be their closer?