Tom Wilhelmsen has 45 saves for the Seattle Mariners since the start of the 2012 season. Since Seattle does not win too many games, and the Tigers have a bit of an issue with the closer role, he may be an attractive trade target. Would the Mariners deal the Tigers another pitcher, after having Doug Fister stolen in 2011?
(SIERA: Skills Interactive Earned Run Average; BABIP: Batting Average for Runs in Play.)
Stats via FanGraphs.com (updated June 27)
Wilhemsen had only a little over a year of major league service time entering 2013, thus he is only making $509,000 for the season. He will not be a free agent until after the 2017 season. (Cot's)
Tom Wilhelmsen was drafted by the Brewers in the seventh round of the 2002 amateur draft. That may sound like a long time ago, but he was a high schooler and is now 29 years old. He pitched in the low minors in 2003, but was suspended for all of 2004 after testing positive for marijuana twice. He then worked as a bartender from 2005 to 2009. Perhaps after watching "The Rookie", he played independent league ball in 2009. Less than 12 innings with an ERA over six convinced the Mariners to sign him, and by 2011 he was in the majors. In 2012 he was slotted into the closer role. He features a fastball that averages 96 mph, and mixes in a slow curve now and then.
Why he fits the Tigers
Wilhelmsen is a relief pitcher. The Tigers have used Evan Reed, Luke Putkonen, Brayan Villareal and Jose Valverde as relievers. His WHIP is under 1.2 for each of last three years. So he is of interest by definition.
Why he doesn't fit the Tigers
The Tigers have kept the drama on the field for the past few years, where it belongs. Wilhelmsen lately has had his share of on-field drama, and adds the risk of off-field drama. While the Tigers were dealing with the Valverde implosion, Wilhelmsen was losing his role as closer after four blown saves in 11 appearances. His strikeout rate has fallen to 7.1 per nine innings, and walk rate has climbed to 4.6 per nine innings. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times wrote during this stretch "Wilhelmsen is a mess, mentally and physically", but that's an occupational hazard for closers not named Mariano Rivera."
How likely is a trade?
If the Mariners can find a taker for Wilhelmsen, I suspect they would gladly make a deal for prospects. But I do not think the Tigers will be suitors.
What the Tigers should give up
Wilhelmsen has a very cheap contract with four more years before free agency. On the other hand, he takes up a roster spot. He looks a lot more like David Pauley that Doug Fister, with about 100 innings of a successful track record. Acquiring him would take up a spot on the 40 man roster, which has an opportunity cost. So if he were designated for assignment, I think the cost would be too much.
Team blog thoughts
Scott Weber, Lookout Landing:
Even though Tom Wilhelmsen was a reclamation project that cost nothing to acquire, the Mariners would be selling low to trade him now. He struggled with his command in June, and was eventually removed from the closer role after a few meltdowns. Lately he's looked more like his old self, but with so much club control left, it doesn't seem likely the Mariners would let him go for just a spare part. The Mariners do have others in waiting who could take his place eventually, but Carter Capps hasn't been sharp and Stephen Pryor is still out with injury. This front office has shown a willingness to part with their closers (Putz, League) so it's entirely possible, even if this isn't ideal timing for the best return.
The Mariners could look for a toolsy, high upside B level prospect. Steven Moya fits that bill and would slot right into an organization full of impatient, strikeout prone hackers. Jake Thompson is another good upside but distant prospect who the Mariners could target. If these pieces seem like too high of a cost, it's because the Mariners don't need to trade Wilhelmsen right now and should only part for him if they get the established closer return.
Check out this story they wrote about Wilhelmsen in May. Or check out the dance moves, at least.