In November, I presented my biggest fear of the offseason. It had to do with Brian Wilson getting a long-term deal. See, the Giants have made all sorts of noise about locking up their young pitchers. Pitching is the light and truth; the light and truth is the pitching. Pitching, pitching, pitching. Can't hitting because pitching. For the short-term. For the long-term. Here is a diamond brooch, pitching. Be mine, pitching. Pitching.
That obviously meant Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. But I was scared that somewhere in the "we want to keep our pitching" message of the dull offseason, someone somewhere meant Brian Wilson. I think Larry Baer mentioned Wilson by name once when talking about the Giants' goal of keeping the pitching intact.
Today was a good reminder why this is a scary, scary thing. The day started with Andrew Baggarly tweeting thusly:
Brian Wilson declined to talk. Told me he's having a rough morning. On possibly related note, he is no longer skedded to throw a 'pen today.
Uh oh. But that was followed by a sequence of tweets and articles and videos and carrier pigeons from everyone in Scottsdale that indicated Wilson was just fine.
Brian Wilson letting it go in bullpen. Looks unrestricted.
And the Giants-loving world could breath a sigh of relief. No matter what you think about the modern closer, you have to admit that the 2012 Giants, as currently constructed, are a better team with a healthy Brian Wilson.
There are a lot of reasons why the Giants shouldn't be interested in a long-term deal with Wilson, and most of them we covered in November. But today provides one of the best reasons. Because if that sequence of tweets just kept getting worse, would anyone have been surprised?
"Wilson bullpen cancelled again."
"Wilson shut down for a week."
"Wilson questionable for start of season."
"Wilson's beard caught in elevator doors, and now the elevator is trying to get to a lower floor. Wilson's head keeps making a funny sound when it hits the roof, and the studio audience is laughing hysterically"
Alright, that last one might surprise you. But the others? Not at all. Wilson's velocity was down last year, and the good news is that because it was probably related to elbow problems, everything is now supposed to be fixed. The bad news is that the velocity drop was probably related to elbow problems.
The Giants are going to stick to a firm budget for the most part. That's fine. It's not a Pirates-sized budget, so I'll stop complaining. They should be able to build a good team for $130 million, especially after Huff, Zito, and Rowand are off the books. But if they're going to put a self-imposed cap on the budget, they should ...
a. forfeit their right to premium closers
b. especially premium closers with wonky elbows
I'm WAR-curious, but I can't shake the feeling that WAR underestimates the contributions of key relievers. I can't express why like an intelligent adult, though, so I'm not going to push that sneaky suspicion on the rest of you more than I just did. But I think that Brian Wilson, when healthy, is a valuable part of the Giants. Not as much as the two good hitters or the starting pitchers, but still valuable. I want him to be healthy, and I want him to be good for the Giants.
But I'm scared that a good year with the Giants means that he'll get that extension. There are 13 roster spots that are much more important to me on the Giants than a closer. And if having an expensive closer means that the Giants can't afford to upgrade one of those eight position players or five starters, well, that's a luxury they can't mess around with. That goes for a healthy closer. One with elbow concerns? Scary.
I can't think of a worse match right now than the Giants and Brian Wilson. It could be that the starting shortstop in 2015 has to do with how well Heath Hembree does this year. As in, if Hembree does well/awful the Giants will be less likely/more likely to re-sign Wilson, which will make a difference with future payrolls, which might futz up the Giants' flexibility when it comes to an upgrade on the offense. That's sort of weird when you think about it. Have a good spring, Heath.
Wilson is arbitration-eligible after this season, so there isn't any urgency to lock him up just yet, especially with the concerns he's been having. But I want to root for Brian Wilson in 2012 and 2013 without worrying about what he'll do to the payroll from 2014 through 2017. I hope the Giants' front office feels the same way.