The Angels Got C.J. Wilson For a Bargain
Sunday February 26th, 2012
Sam Evans: The Angels 2011 offseason was the most surprising and significant winter in team history. They signed the best player of the last ten years, and brought in the best available free-agent starter. After a seemingly dormant start to the 2011 offseason, the Angels and new General Manager Jerry DiPoto made a phenomenal splash heading into the new season. This offseason will affect the Angels (and their payroll) for years to come. The rest of the AL West better watch out!
On December 8th, 2011, the Angels started off the day by signing one of the best right-handed hitters of all-time. In his ten seasons in St. Louis, Albert Pujols won three National League MVP awards and two World Series. On that Thursday morning in December, Pujols signed a ten-year, $254 million contract, making him the highest paid first-basemen in the game.
Later that afternoon, rumors broke that the Angels were going to sign former Texas pitcher C.J. Wilson as well. Eventually the news was confirmed, and Wilson was headed to Anaheim. He signed a five-year, $77.5 million contract, making him the seventh-highest paid player for the upcoming year.
C.J. Wilson is one of the more eccentric baseball players that we’ve witnessed in the last decade. He uses the most vibrantly colored glove in the game, and races expensive cars in his free time. He also lives by the “Straight-Edge” lifestyle, refraining from drug, alcohol, etc. Not to mention, we have C.J. Wilson to thank for narrowing the gap between fans and the players. Wilson was one of the first major leaguers on Twitter, and even today he remains one of the more popular tweeting players (you can follow Wilson here).
Over the last two years, Wilson has successfully been transformed from a solid relief pitcher, to a perennial All-Star candidate starting pitcher. In 2009, Wilson pitched in seventy-four games out of the Texas bullpen, and was highly effective. From 2006-2009, Wilson spent time both as the Rangers closer, and as their set-up man. During his time as a reliever, Wilson had a 3.94 xFIP, and he recorded fifty-two saves.
Wilson was not only a vanguard in the world of athletes twitter accounts, he also should be credited with innovating the idea of moving young relievers into starting roles. This year, Aroldis Chapman, Chris Sale, and Daniel Bard, will all be starting for the first times in their young major league careers. If Wilson’s switch to starting hadn’t gone so smoothly, it’s inconceivable to tell if this notion would be so popular among today’s managers.
After switching to start just before the 2010 season, Wilson has been dominant. One of my main concerns with Wilson’s move back in 2010, was how he would handle the workload. It turns out, Wilson has been able to stay healthy and not miss one start in the last two years. He has been worth 10.5 WAR over the last two years, and he also has been able to incorporate up to five pitches into his repertoire.
Thanks to people much smarter than me, we have figured out that one WAR is worth about $5 million dollars in today’s market. So technically, Wilson was worth about $26 million last year. This means, in order for Wilson to be worth the $10 million he’ll be paid in 2012, he only needs to be 1/3 as good as he was last year.
As of November 18th, C.J. Wilson is thirty-one years old. Generally, this is when pitches careers start to slowly decline until retirement. Keeping this in mind, I think it is reasonable to think that Wilson can be worth five WAR in 2012, four in 2013, four in 2014, three in 2015, one in 2016 (the average MLB starter is worth roughly two WAR). This would make his playing time with the Angels equaled to 18 WAR. 17*5= 85, so if Wilson were to naturally decline like I predict, he would be worth a five-year, $85 million contract.
WAR is not a perfected statistic, and it is probably used too much by baseball fans. However, I think that it can be used to compare players fairly, and to give a general idea of how much a player should be paid as well. If Wilson’s career continues similar to my projection, I think the Angels organization will be very pleased. With a pitcher like Wilson, and hitters like Pujols and Trout around for the next five years, the Angels are never going to be too far out of first place.
The main knock against Wilson is his playoff experience.It’s not that he’s inexperienced under the bright lights of the playoffs. But he has struggled mightily in front of a national audience. In 2010, Wilson threw 24.1 innings in the playoffs and gave up eleven runs. He wasn’t as good as he was during the regular season in 2010, but at the same time, he didn’t stand out as being terrible. In 2011, however, the Rangers were desperately relying on Wilson to lead their rotation during the playoffs. Unfortunately, when it was his time to shine, Wilson lost control over the hitters. In 27.3 postseason innings last year, Wilson gave up twenty-one runs.
The reason Wilson signed with the Angels was not for the money. He wanted to play in Southern California, where he grew up. Also, he wanted to play on a competitive team (low blow to the Dodgers), in which he can return to the playoffs. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to return home. In the world outside of baseball, people pass on money all the time, so that they could return to the comforts of their hometown.
With the addition of Wilson, the Angels have assembled one of the top rotations in baseball. Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, and Dan Haren, all threw over two hundred inning last year, as did Wilson. Not many rotations are able to boast that they have four workhorse pitchers of the same quality as these guys. Haren was worth 6.4 WAR last year, Weaver was worth 5.6, and Santana was valued at 3.2 Wins Above Replacement. If you look solely at WAR, the Angels have three of the top ten pitchers in baseball from last year.
C.J. Wilson was not looking for the biggest contract this offseason. If he was, he would have signed with Texas, Miami, or another team looking for a top-of-the rotation starter. He wanted to play in California, and the Angels paid the price, albeit a discounted one, to bring him there. The Pujols contract will always overshadow Wilson’s. But in the end, Wilson’s contract is going to look much more favorable for the Angels.
**Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Sam on Twitter***
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