COMMENTARY | We've all taken our whacks at the Los Angeles Angels for their unfortunate free-agent signings in the last couple of years.
Now, let's talk about a free agent who has worked out well enough for the Angels. So far.
On Dec. 8, 2011, the same day that the Angels signed Albert Pujols for 10 years at $254 million, they also signed left-hander C.J. Wilson for five years at $77.5 million. It was thought that the Wilson signing would tip the scales for the Angels in the American League West, as it simultaneously removed him from the Texas Rangers, who had won the division two straight years.
Wilson had been good, but not great, in his six years with the Rangers, first as a reliever then as a starting pitcher. As a starter in his last two years with the Rangers, he always took the ball in his turn, fired up 200 innings each season and usually gave the Rangers a chance to win. He was never one to produce unbelievable feats of pitching. He was a good, reliable starting pitcher. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.
That's what the Angels signed, and that's what they've gotten, even if he isn't quite what he was when the Angels signed him off his best season, 2011, when he was 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA for the Rangers. We already knew he wasn't a staff anchor. We already knew he wasn't a postseason superhero, particularly in light of his 2011 postseason, during which he was 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA in five starts.
Wilson is more of a stalwart. Take the ball every fifth day, throw six, keep the other team within arm's length and give your guys a chance to win if they can just hit reasonably well. It's not shut-down, Cy Young stuff, and it never has been. If you've got an otherwise solid club, Wilson will help you get into the playoffs, which is more than we can say about, say, Joe Blanton.
The question is whether that makes Wilson worth $77.5 million over five years.
Wilson pitched another one of his games on Aug. 15 against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He lasted 6 2/3 innings and allowed one run. The Angels won 8-4, snapping a four-game losing streak. Wilson also was winner the last time the Angels were victorious, a 7-2 win against the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 10.
Wilson is 13-6 with a 3.40 ERA right now. In two years with the Angels, he's 26-16 with a 3.64 ERA, covering 59 starts.
When we look at Wilson's contract, we have to say that the Angels are doing all right. So far. Wilson earned $10 million in 2012 and he's making $11 million in 2013, according to the figures on baseball-reference.com. For a veteran second or third starting pitcher on a big-market club producing as Wilson has produced, that's a reasonable amount to pay.
The trouble, as is so often the case with these Angels contracts, lies in the future. Wilson is due for $16 million in 2014, $18 million in 2015 and $20 million in 2016. And even if there were a trade market for Wilson in each of those years, he can block trades to eight teams in each season.
In Wilson's favor, going forward, he's a left-hander, and those guys can hang around for a while. Wilson is 32 now, but he has always been durable.
It remains, though, that this is another back-loaded contract that is cause for concern with the Angels in the next few years. The Angels seem to have trouble understanding that baseball players are obsolescent and fungible, especially when they pass 30 years old.
So, the jury is still out as to whether the Angels made a good deal when they signed C.J. Wilson for five years at $77.5 million. So far, though, we really can't complain.
More from this contributor:
Bill Peterson has covered and written about Major League Baseball for more than 30 years in Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Texas and Los Angeles, where he now lives and writes a baseball blog, Big Leagues in Los Angeles. He is a lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TheBillPeterson.
- Sports & Recreation
- Los Angeles Angels