For the second year in a row, Brian Wilson is an interesting name on the free agent market. This year, however, his name comes with more than just hype. After recovering from Tommy John surgery, Wilson recovered to pitch extremely well for the Los Angeles Dodgers down the stretch. He helped solidify a shaky bullpen leading in the postseason, although the Dodgers ultimately fell short in the NLCS. Could he do the same for the Tigers in 2014?
Who is he?
Wilson, a 31 year old right-hander from New Hampshire, came up through the San Francisco Giants' system after being drafted in the 24th round in 2003. He struggled during his rookie season in 2006, but found his stride soon after. He became the Giants' closer in September of 2007 and spent the next four years in that role. He saved 163 games from 2008 to 2011, including 48 during the Giants' championship season in 2010. He signed with the Dodgers and appeared in 18 games down the stretch for the NL West champs in 2013.
Why should we care?
Wilson returned to the big leagues late in the year after missing most of the 2012 and 2013 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery... and he dominated. Wilson allowed just one run in 19 2/3 innings between the regular season and playoffs. He also struck out 21 hitters to just six walks during that span. His .250 BABIP was lower than his career average of .307, but his fastball velocity has already returned to pre-surgery levels.
Why should we stay away?
The return in velocity is nice, but Wilson is still recovering from the second Tommy John surgery of his career. While the list of pitchers to successfully return from a single surgery is long and distinguished, the list of those who have overcome two Tommy John operations is the opposite. There is a good chance that, once we get beyond the small sample size of 19 2/3 innings, we see that Wilson is no longer the guy that dominated with the San Francisco Giants for five seasons.
Will he end up in Detroit?
It's tough to see this one happening. Without getting into Wilson's character -- by all accounts, he's a great clubhouse guy who is active in the community -- he isn't the type of player that the Tigers have pursued while under Mike Ilitch's control. Sure, guys like Gary Sheffield and Miguel Cabrera have added some flair to the clubhouse, but Wilson is a whole different breed of "character," for lack of a better term. I would be cautiously optimistic from a baseball standpoint if he were signed, but I don't think Wilson will leave the west coast this offseason.
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