For the second straight winter, the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent too much money on a reliever. Last year, it was Brandon League, and this year, it's Brian Wilson. The former Giants closer agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal for 2014. The contract also contains a player option for $9 million in 2015, essentially guaranteeing the 31-year old $19 million over the next two years.
The contract is puzzling, given the fact that Wilson won't even be Los Angeles' capital C closer – that will be the superior (and cheaper) Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers signed Wilson over the summer to a one-year deal that guaranteed him $1 million, and he responded by allowing just one run over 13 2/3 innings in the majors, striking out 13 and walking only four. Wilson has thrown a total of 15 2/3 innings since the beginning of the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery, the second of his career. Returning from the surgery last year, Wilson's velocity on both his fastball and cutter was a career-low.
My main issue with this contract is that, quite frankly, it's un-necessary. The Dodgers already have a sunk cost in their bullpen in League, so why add another potential one in Wilson? Even in 2011, before he blew his elbow out for the second time, Wilson was showing signs of decline. In 55 innings back in 2011, he struck out 54, walked 31, and his velocity and usage both declined as he began to rely on his cutter more. Essentially, Ned Coletti and his Dodgers are putting a lot of emphasis on a small sample at the end of 2013, a sample that saw him only pitch two innings against teams that ranked in the top half of baseball in wRC+.
When you put it that way…doesn't $19 million guaranteed seem just a little bit excessive? His guaranteed money is nearly the same as what Joe Nathan is getting, and even though Nathan just turned 39, he's put together back-to-back 60 inning seasons in Texas and has produced an ample amount of value for the Rangers in the process. I hate giving large guaranteed contracts to relievers, but Nathan's deal absolutely runs over Wilson's, especially given the track record and injury history of both players. Nathan didn't want to be a set-up man, while Wilson was perfectly comfortable in that role. But why should that even matter? What's the logic in giving Wilson eight figures guaranteed because he's willing to pitch in the seventh or eighth inning instead of the ninth? The thought process boggles my mind.