Twelve months ago, the idea of signing Brian Wilson to a massive free agent contract would have been sacrilege for the Dodgers.
The Giants icon remains a fan favorite among San Franciscans and rightfully so after acting as the face of the Dodgers’ biggest rival for nearly four seasons (he played in San Francisco for seven seasons, but was closer for just four).
So in the third installment of our “Dodger Dilemma” series, we ask the question: is Brian Wilson, as a set-up man, worth the salary of a closer that he’s sure to demand this winter?
Now back to Brian Wilson and his un-shaveable beard.
What once appeared to be a risky signing, the decision to add Brian Wilson for the stretch run this season might go down as one of the best general manager Ned Colletti has ever made. In 24 appearances through the regular season and playoffs, Wilson allowed exactly one earned run.
Combine that with a WHIP below one and it’s obvious that Wilson wasn’t just good — he was dominant.
After beginning the season with a bullpen that was a complete mess, Wilson made the Dodger relief corps one of the team’s best assets heading into the playoffs. If the Dodgers could get the lead heading into the eighth, the game might as well have been over.
Unfortunately, as we all know, the Dodgers just didn’t get the lead to the eighth enough and the team was bounced in the NLCS, but now that the off-season has started, the focus is back on Wilson.
As a free agent, it’s obvious that Wilson is garnering incredible amounts of interest — not just as a set-up man, but as a closer moving forward.
The good news for the Dodgers is that Wilson, despite the obvious scenario in which returning to the Dodgers means he’s a set-up man, is interested in returning if the money works.
Put simply: pay him like a closer and he doesn’t care about being a closer.
So the Dodger Dilemma is simple: is Wilson worth it?
In short, yes. Yes a thousand times, yes.
For people that think otherwise, do you remember how bad the Dodgers bullpen was? Do you remember the money LA spent on Brandon League and Matt Guerrier?
In case you forgot, it was $11 million a year combined. And we’re talking about Wilson not being worth around eight million a year himself?
Money isn’t an issue for this Dodgers team and so when LA wants something, it can go and get it. When it’s a player that wore their jersey last season, even better.
The same goes for a guy like JP Howell — who was their third-best reliever down the stretch.
Heading into last season, the bullpen was an afterthought. If LA scored enough runs and had great enough starting pitching, the bullpen wouldn’t matter — they’d make it work.
Well, how’d that work out?
While Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez were given most of the credit for the team’s midseason turnaround, it was the team’s bullpen that was the real unsung hero.
If this unit hadn’t turned around, the Dodgers wouldn’t have sniffed the playoffs, let alone the NLCS.
Heading into next season, LA has the potential to boast one of the best bullpens in baseball. Wilson, however, is a key cog in that equation.
Yes, Paco Rodriguez, Chris Withrow and even Jose Dominguez should be improved heading into next season, but without an elite set-up man, it might all be for naught.
The bullpen isn’t an area that can be overlooked again, and signing Wilson will be a key indicator that Ned Colletti gets that. This is a move this team needs — badly — now it’s time to see if the Dodgers have figured that out yet.
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