Instant Trade Analysis: Brian Wilson to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers get: RP Brian Wilson (one year, $1 million)
Let’s get this right out of the way, Dodger fans. Blogger supreme Mike Petriello took all of the words right out of my fingers:

Now before we discuss the merits of any possible signing, we probably should discuss the elephant in the room: you hate him. Of course you do. He was a Giant, and not only was he a Giant, he was a huge part of their 2010 World Series title, even getting the final out. He’s a big weirdo with a giant, annoying, beard. He got into that thing with Casey Blake. He was in those tremendously irritating “Black Ops” Taco Bell ads. If Taco Bell was a place I would ever go to eat, ever, those ads would be enough to put a stop to that. I’M BLACK OPS.

If there’s such a thing as “good and evil” in the Dodgers / Giants rivalry these days, Wilson is probably the defining face of it. You can’t hate Buster Posey or Matt Cain, who are both outstanding players and reportedly solid people. You can’t hate Tim Lincecum, especially now that he’s a shell of himself, because he’s just too goofy. Hunter Pence? Maybe, but he’s been there for barely a year. Barry Zito? It’s too much fun to laugh at his contract. Pablo Sandoval? Sergio Romo? I guess? No, if there’s a recent villain of this rivalry, it’s Wilson.

But know this: you hate him because he’s not been on your team. If Wilson did all the same things but had been on the Dodgers, you’d treat him like a folk hero. If Yasiel Puig was wearing black & orange while tossing bats and sliding into the plate on home runs, you’d despise him. It’s the way the sports world works, and that’s okay. Let’s just not pretend it’s anything otherwise.

He’s exactly right. I’ve hated Brian Wilson with the most visceral of hatreds usually reserved for Los Angeles sports team killers like Mike Bibby, Barry Bonds, Paul Pierce and his wheelchair. I’ve hated how he dyes his beard, how he still has a stupid haircut despite being over 30 and how he never seems to blink. I’ve hated his attitude, his brashness and his arrogance, but I’ve mostly hated how it’s been…completely justified.

Wilson has been the worst type of Dodger foe–oozing a palpable confidence out of his pores, never shying away from confrontation and at times, being completely dominant. The Beard has thrown 36 career innings of 2.50 ERA ball against LA with 41 strikeouts and only 10 walks, settling up with 18 saves (third-most against all MLB teams). He’s been a horrible, loud and impetuous dickhead, but he’s been incredibly effective, especially in the Dodgers. In other words, he’s a fan’s worst nightmare.

But now, he’s our nightmare to unleash on other teams. At his peak in 2010, we were watching an absolutely dominant closer, finishing 2010 with a 1.81 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 74 innings, 48 saves and just 3 homers given up all year. He was virtually flawless that postseason, allowing just 5 hits in 11 innings with zero earned runs and my heart broken up into a million little pieces. His 2011 wasn’t nearly as dominant (his strikeouts per nine innings went down almost 2.5 Ks and he walked nearly 5 more batters in almost 20 less innings) but still saved 36 games in 54 IP. Also, we were privy to off the diamond gems like this:

The obvious downside here is that Wilson’s coming off the second Tommy John surgery of his career, needing nearly 15 months to recover this time. He’s reportedly looked good in his workouts, or as we can draw from empirical evidence, good enough to warrant a guaranteed contract from a contending team rather than a minor league deal.

The key question here is obviously whether or not Wilson will be healthy enough to contribute on a big league level, which almost goes without saying for a pitcher coming off a serious arm injury. But perhaps of more interesting note, where are the Dodgers going to use him? As the depth charts stand, the Dodgers are stacked with power arms from the right side, including closer Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belasario, Chris Withrow and eventually the returning Jose Dominguez (the latter two who can hit 97+ on the gun). Although Wilson won’t be throwing up 95+ anymore (he was gunned at 90-93 at his workouts), I’ll still expect him to attack hitters, pound the strikezone and show no fear up on the mound.

However, the way that the Dodgers bullpen is rolling right now, it’s hard to see why Wilson would want to come to the organization without a defined role available. Jansen is rolling right now as the closer, and his eighth inning man Belisario has given up just 1 earned run in his last 19 appearances. Moving further down the depth chart, the seventh inning man might not be in the cards for Wilson either. Lefties J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez are showing they can deal to the right side just as easily, with both pitchers oddly holding righties to the exact same .238 average. Even late inning duty while trailing or in tie games seems to be tied up, with deposed closer Brandon League throwing six scoreless innings in the past week. Unlike jobs in Pittsburgh (with closer Jason Grilli shelved) and Arizona (with David Hernandez and Heath Bell providing shaky work, to say the least), there’s nothing that looks readily available for Wilson.

Perhaps that’s not entirely a bad thing. After all, we’re talking about a guy who’s pitched just two games since October 2011 and will need time to work through some rust and into Major League shape. He might still look look the same extra on Game of Thrones he was in 2011, but that doesn’t mean he’s still throwing like that anymore. More to the point, the Dodgers bullpen is absolutely dealing right now–quite frankly, they just don’t need him at the moment. However, that’s not to say that they won’t in the future. Jansen is All-Star-caliber, but he’s hasn’t proven anything in October, whereas Wilson has shown the exact type of voodoo he can pull from that dragon’s nest on his face on the biggest stage. Belisario is prone to wild slumps in either direction, not to mention possible deportation at any moment, and youngster implosions from Rodriguez, Withrow and Dominguez wouldn’t be surprising at all. Also, in terms of workload, Jansen has already thrown 53 innings, Belisario at 46, Howell at 43 and Paco at 36. It’s certainly not a bad thing for a potentially dynamic arm to be soaking up more and more innings for a few guys on track to throw 65-80 innings. For the Dodgers, all this adds up to the best case scenario–they might need Wilson in the future, but certainly not right now, which directly coincides with the time that he will need to come back.

This is a great, low risk move for the Dodgers and a puzzling move from Brian Wilson and his camp. I’m not certain why he’d rather pitch for LA than say, Pittsburgh and Arizona, who are both teams in the playoff race and seem to have defined roles ready for him.

Or maybe he just wants to stick it to the Giants.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *