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Unlikely Scenario: Let's Sign Brian Wilson (No, Really)

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Hey, Pavano's mustache was a hit.

Harry How

I'll admit that this isn't anything I expect to see happen, but in thinking about what on Earth I was going to write about last night, I stumbled upon Brian Wilson's name, and before long had convinced myself that he's a reasonable pickup for the Twins to make.

Firstly, he's not going to have an exorbitant price tag. The market for him has yet to take off since being non-tendered by the Giants. The biggest rumors surrounding Wilson to date have been that the Mets aren't willing to offer him a Major League deal. The Giants aren't bringing him back; rather, they're in on Brandon Lyon.

Yes, Terry Ryan got burned by Joel Zumaya last season, but the two aren't direct comps. Wilson is coming off of Tommy John surgery and had been highly durable prior to the operation (albeit, it was his second go-around with Tommy John). Zumaya was the most fragile commodity in baseball.

A good comparison for a Wilson signing would be Jonathan Broxton's deal with the Royals last offseason. Broxton had been a bullpen workhorse prior to an injury-shortened 2011. He signed a one-year, $4MM contract with Kansas City with an extra $1MM worth of incentives before being flipped to the Reds for a pair of high-strikeout lefties in Donnie Joseph and J.C. Sulbaran. And that's really the endgame here.

Sulbaran (No. 5) and Joseph (No. 7) both rank in Jonathan Mayo's Top 10 Royals prospects over at MLB.com. John Sickels isn't as bullish, but ranks Joseph 17th and gives him a C+, stating that his combination of strikeouts and groundballs should make him at least a LOOGY. Both Joseph and Sulbaran were on the fringe of the Reds' Top 10 at the time of the trade, according to Baseball America.

Broxton is hardly the first incident of a low-cost reliever resulting in a significant return for teams at the trade deadline. Sorry for the upcoming Wilson Ramos reference...

  • 2010: Matt Capps signs with the Nationals for one year, $3.5MM following his non-tender from the Pirates. Twins eventually trade Ramos and Joe Testa to Washington to acquire Capps.
  • 2010: Octavio Dotel signs a one-year, $3.5MM deal with the Pirates (to replace Capps). The Dodgers trade Andrew Lambo and James McDonald to Pittsburgh to acquire Dotel.
  • 2009: The Dodgers elect to part with Josh Bell (who was then hitting .296/.386/.497 and would go into 2010 as the No. 37 overall prospect per BA) in order to acquire George Sherrill from the Orioles.
  • 2007: Eric Gagne signs with the Rangers on a one-year deal. The Red Sox deal three players -- including David Murphy and Engel Beltre -- to the Rangers to acquire Gagne.

Not all of those are direct Wilson comps. Sherrill is left-handed and had another year of team control on his contract. Capps had one more year of arbitration eligibility. Dotel did have a club option. Still, including Broxton, that's five instances of significant talent being exchanged for limited control of a reliever. Wilson is tentatively scheduled to be ready for Opening Day. If that ends up turning into May 1, it doesn't really change a ton.

The Twins are going to have extra money from what was initially reported to be this year's payroll. Sure, Wilson is the anti-Twin in terms of personality. And maybe his arm is done and he pitches poorly in 2013. But I look at Wilson as a vehicle to bring talent into the organization. He wouldn't be part of the long-term plan, and if he wound up as a bust, the cost wouldn't be much more than $3-4MM.

As a fan, it's easier for me to say "just a few million" than it is for the front office or the Pohlad family to say it. But there's upside to that risk. Wilson isn't going to block any elite prospects. He could very likely make the bullpen better for a few months. And he could be another bullet added to a list of ill-fated trades that look pretty bad for the team acquiring the reliever.

In the end, it's all speculation anyhow. It's unlikely for a number of reasons. If it did happen, it probably wouldn't play out just like this. But when you're a fan, isn't armchair GM'ing and fruitless speculation the fun of the offseason?

Three weeks until pitchers and catchers report!