With the recent trade of Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler, the Detroit Tigers search for a closer had been put on the back burner. That deal now wrapped up, the Tigers are now tackling their bullpen issues.
While the Tigers were introducing Kinsler to the media this afternoon, Lynn Henning of The Detroit News reported the team is in serious negotiations with 31-year-old free agent reliever Brian Wilson.
A source told The Detroit News that negotiations with the ex-Dodgers and Giants reliever were serious. The source requested anonymity because a deal had not been reached.
It is known Wilson met Sunday with Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and with Wilson’s agent, Dan Lozano, during an earnest business session in Los Angeles.
Henning is also reporting the Tigers have not had serious conversations with the top closer on the market, 39-year-old Joe Nathan, while Grant Balfour is not on the team's radar.
When asked about the closer situation by Henning, GM Dave Dombrowski would not go into specifics.
"People get a little anxious," Dombrowski said, "but it’s only been a little more than three weeks since the season ended."
A little more than a week ago, there were rumblings the Tigers preferred Wilson over other available closers, this term used by ESPN's Buster Olney saying volumes as to why.
"Depending upon where the dollar figures fall."
Without question, Wilson is a far less expensive option than Nathan, who is looking for a multi-year deal worth more than $10 million per season.
Despite Wilson's excellent history as the San Francisco Giants' closer, named to three All-Star teams while averaging 41 saves a season from 2008-11, leading all of baseball with 48 saves in 2010, the eight-year veteran remains a risky signing. He's missed most of the past two seasons after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery in 2012. But Henning says Tigers scouts are quite high on Wilson's supposedly healthy right arm after watching him pitch effectively for the Los Angeles Dodgers over the final weeks of the 2013 season. Wilson was 2-1 with an 0.66 ERA in 13 2/3 innings during his short time in LA.
In our ongoing series of possible off season targets, Rob had this to say about the sometimes off-putting Wilson's fit as a closer for the Tigers.
Wilson has the type of stuff that you look for in a closer. He has struck out over a batter per inning throughout his career and was fanning 10 batters per 9 innings during his four year heyday as the Giants' closer. He was nearly perfect during the Giants' World Series run in 2010, allowing just one unearned run in 11 2/3 innings in the playoffs.
Another plus to Wilson's game is that he doesn't allow many home runs. He has only given up 17 dingers throughout his 6+ year career. Meanwhile, Joaquin Benoit has allowed 19 home runs since signing with the Tigers in 2011.
There was also this prediction.
Will he end up in Detroit?
Common sense says no, but my gut tells me that this might happen. Wilson has flown under the radar all offseason, an odd concept for one of the most marketable players in the MLB. He might make fans pine for the days of Jose Valverde at times, but Wilson is an instant upgrade for the Tigers bullpen who will probably come at a major discount. And hey, how much fun would it be to sign another closer that opposing fans absolutely can't stand? I'm in.
From all accounts, Wilson and the Tigers will soon be a match made, if not in Heaven, but in Wilson's alternate, off-kilter reality.