Brian Wilson: Pros and Cons Of Retaining The Closer


Oct 11, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson walks off the field after defeating the Cincinnati Reds to win the 2012 NLDS at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

As famous as an icon as Brian Wilson is in the city of San Francisco, he and his fluffy black beard could be headed elsewhere this offseason. According to several reports, the Giants and Wilson are “not close” to reaching terms on a new contract. The same reports confirm that talks have not gone relatively well either. With Friday’s deadline to tender contracts to all unsigned players looming, Wilson could be a free agent as soon as the clock strikes 12:01 on Saturday morning.

Now, let’s clear up some confusing areas. If Wilson does indeed become a free agent, it doesn’t mean that he can’t return to the Giants. What it does mean, however, is that both parties could try and negotiate a more reasonable offer, but other teams will have the opportunity to chime in as well.

However, if the Giants and Wilson are having issues creating a contract now, there’s little reason to believe that they will be able to reach terms under different circumstances. Plus,  if the Giants don’t tender him, he will have other suitors, as the list for Wilson increased on Wednesday. Most notably, the Dodgers and Red Sox were rumored as potential fits. Remember, Wilson has a home in Los Angeles and is from Massachusetts. Just some food for thought.

So, we now have the facts. The only remaining question is, do the Giants need to bring Wilson back?

Pro #1: Good for Marketing, Good for The Fans

Wilson brings revenue to the Giants through his fake beards and what not. If he molds into something similar to his 2010 form, you’d bet that those beards would again be in full swing. I know you might be thinking that this isn’t a huge deal, as he obviously isn’t going to earn his entire salary through fake beards.

However, it’s not exactly the beards; it’s the impact he has had on the fans in San Francisco. The quirky reliever is a fan favorite, a celebrity, and he isn’t all fun and games because he has shown that he can indeed be good. Just look at what he accomplished in 2010.

Let’s just say that losing him would be a hard pill to swallow for Giants’ fans, nor would it be a popular move. And with Tim Lincecum’s contract up after next year, he could leave too. I doubt the reaction of those two figures leaving would be positive, whether it’s for better or worse.

Con #1: Keeping Him Could Falter Sergio Romo’s Progress as a Closer

Technically, Sergio Romo is not the Giants’ closer, yet. Although, after picking up four saves in the playoffs on an 0.84 ERA, he could be headed towards being San Francisco’s everyday closer in 2013. Retaining Wilson, however, would likely delay Romo’s progress to takeover the full time closer’s role because if healthy, Wilson will undoubtedly be Bruce Bochy’s guy in the ninth inning.

Perhaps Wilson isn’t as effective as he was before undergoing surgery, and therefore isn’t suited to be San Francisco’s closer. Then, Romo’s chances are bolstered slightly, but who knows how Bruce Bochy will align his bullpen. The same approach that won him a World Series could be in full affect again—closer by committee. Or, he could retry Santiago Casilla, assuming that he is also tendered by Friday’s deadline.

Pro #2: Depth Could Be an Issue

For the sake of the argument, let’s say that the Giants don’t tender Wilson or Casilla. Suddenly, the same bullpen that propelled them to a championship would be wobbly. In other words, Jeremy Affeldt and Romo would be the only two that can pitch an inning or two in relief, as Casilla and Wilson both proved to be durable when healthy, of course.

A lack of depth might not be a huge problem in the Giants’ case. For the most part, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, and Madison Bumgarner pitch deep into games more often than not. While Tim Lincecum is currently a question mark, a hot start could have him joining that list eventually. Even with starting pitchers that can permit bullpen over usage, the Giants would be playing with fire, to be sure.

Con #2: The Risk

Ah yes, the most obvious observation of the crop. Wilson isn’t going to break the bank if the Giants want to retain him, but paying him even a single cent is a risk because his right arm is a mystery.

Some pitchers recover well from Tommy John surgery. Most of those pitchers, however, undergo that specific surgery just once. Wilson, on the other hand, is fresh off his second go around with the infamous procedure.

Could his arm fall off after he reaches a certain point?

It’s not out of the question.