COMMENTARY | The Arizona Diamondbacks haven't had this hard of a time closing out games since the Juan Gutierrez era.
They may lead the NL West in wins, but the D-backs lead the entire league in blown saves with 13.
Most of those are attributed to 36-year-old J.J. Putz, who was expected to anchor the D-backs' bullpen in 2013. The big fella, however, stumbled out of the gate, saving only five of his first nine opportunities.
As Putz recovers from an elbow injury, one-time closer Heath Bell has filled in admirably. But even Bell, with his 12 saves in 14 tries, tends to make games more exciting than they should be. Opponents have hit .345 with a .554 slugging percentage off Bell's first 15 pitches per game. However, after he gets settled in--between pitches 16 and 30--those opposing percentages drop to .160 and .214, respectively.
In short, Bell puts a lot of runners on base--and a lot of runners in scoring position--but, as the old cliche goes, he gets the job done.
With J.J. Putz's return date unknown and Heath Bell's ninth-inning theatrics, buzz of Brian Wilson already abounds in the desert.
The former San Francisco Giants closer, fittingly known as The Bearded One, has remained an unsigned free agent so far this year. He's apparently "testing the market," which means he awaits a team in desperate need of an experienced closer. But he's also recovering from a second Tommy John operation. The latest reports say Wilson is nearing full recovery and should be throwing for a team by the All-Star break.
Two years ago, Wilson was one of the game's best ninth-inning mavericks, despite his on- and off-the-field antics.
So here are three reasons why the Arizona Diamondbacks should consider signing Wilson--then one big reason why they shouldn't:
1. Wilson is only 31 years old. We have seen older and more injured MLB players make successful comebacks. Joakim Soria, a two-time All-Star closer for the Kansas City Royals, is also currently recovering from a second Tommy John surgery and has been signed by the Texas Rangers for the 2013 season. If Soria, with his 89% save percentage and .240 ERA in five seasons, is on a team, why not World Series champion Wilson, with his 87% save percentage and 3.21 ERA in six seasons?
2. Wilson knows and understands the National League West. It's the only division in which he's played during his six-year career. Also, after all he did for San Francisco, including two All-Star appearances and a World Series championship, the Giants felt they owed him nothing and didn't re-sign him while he recovered from surgery. That gives Wilson extra motivation to go against his former club, whom the D-backs play 10 more times this year. And you don't want to upset Wilson. After he was fined $1,000 in 2010 for wearing bright orange cleats, he responded by completing 18 of his final 19 save opportunities that year with a 1.55 ERA, finishing 13th in MVP voting.
3. He's confident. Every team wants and needs a closer with a chip on his shoulder, and Brian Wilson certainly has that. We're talking about a guy that wore this to the ESPYs.
Depending on how much you pay him, Wilson could be a low-risk, high-reward season-changing pickup.
But the Diamondbacks probably won't--and probably shouldn't--sign the veteran flamethrower because of one big reason: J.J. Putz. At 6 feet 5 inches and 250 pounds, Putz is literally a BIG reason not to sign Wilson.
Manager Kirk Gibson still believes and relies on Putz. D-backs management, players, and fans haven't trusted a manger this much since the team wore purple pinstripes. So if Gibby believes in Putz, then let Heath Bell fill in while Putz recovers.
Also, you never know what bringing Wilson on to the roster could do to the chemistry and culture in the clubhouse, which is one of the most underrated aspects in baseball analysis.
I mean, do you really want a "certified ninja" on the roster?
Justin Bray, who studies sports history at the University of Utah, has followed the Arizona Diamondbacks since Andy Benes' first pitch at the BOB in 1998. He was an original member of the Andy Fox Fan Club and even risked his life for a Dan Plesac autograph.
- Sports & Recreation
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Brian Wilson
- Heath Bell