The CJ Situation

How much would you pay for a 30 year old starting pitcher that just gave you a 16-7 record, 223 innings pitched, 206 strikeouts, and a 2.94 ERA? That’s the question the Rangers are having to answer when considering resigning C.J. Wilson.

 At the base of the situation is the argument of whether or not those are ace numbers that are worthy an ace contract going forward, which is what Wilson is reportedly seeking. For the sake of this comparison we’ll exclude National League pitchers since they work under different rules. We’ll also throw out the top guy in the American League, since nobody is comparing C.J. to the Cy Young winning Justin Verlander. 

 Jered Weaver (an undeniable ace, and second in Cy Young voting) had two more wins, 12 more innings pitched, eight fewer strikeouts, but a measureably better ERA at 2.41. James Shields (third in Cy Young voting) went 16-12 with 249 innings pitched, 225 strikeouts, and a 2.84 ERA. CC Sabathia (another undeniable ace, and fourth in Cy Young voting) posted just three more wins, four more innings pitched, 24 more strikeouts, and a .06 higher ERA. 

You were just fed more stats in that last paragraph than you may ever be again in one of my articles. The point of that whole exercise was the fact that, despite having remarkable Shields like numbers, C.J. Wilson ended up sixth in Cy Young voting. He was behind Verlander, Weaver, Shields, Jose Valverde (a relief pitcher), and Sabathia. 

If you’ve read much of what I’ve written you know that I’m not one that believes numbers and awards are the sole criteria by which to judge players. I do, however, think it is telling that the writers voted Wilson three places below Shields despite the very similar numbers. Maybe that’s because of the still standing “east coast bias” in sports media. Maybe it’s becuase these folks realized Wilson is pitching with one of the league’s best defenses behind him. Maybe they also realized that, for a large portion of the season, he also had a very strong bullpen capable of turning even the smallest lead into a win. 

The prevailing rumor is that Wilson is looking for a six year contract at $20 million per year. Anybody that has ever bought a car knows that the first offer is far from the best offer. Heck, Jered Weaver (a decidedly better pitcher) recently signed a new deal with the Angels for five years at an average of $17 millon a year. Sabathia was just signed to a new 5 year, $122 million deal. Both of these guys have been doing their thing a lot longer than Wilson. C.J. just wrapped up his second year as a starter. I would prefer a longer track record of success that we’ve been shown. During his two years starting he’s been good, but not the best. To use an analogy from another sport, he’s looking to get paid like Brady when he’s performed like Romo. 

You’ll notice that, until now, I have not mentioned Wilson’s postseason performance. To be blunt, it’s been bad. The reason I’ve left it out is simple: the playoffs represent a comparitively small sample size to that of the regular season. It is entirely possible that a player can hit a skid going into the postseason. If Wilson had a 4-5 year record of playoff disappointment, it may signal that he’s not a big moment guy. He’s only had two years as a starter, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. 

 I try to be a fair guy. I try to evaluate situations without bias or prejudice. It’s not that I don’t want C.J. Wilson back in a Rangers uniform; it’s just that, based on his asking price, I don’t think he’ll return for a reasonable amount of money. 

 As I’ve said before, I’m not a general manager. I can’t give you dollar amount that I would be willing to pay Wilson. I would welcome him back with open arms if it were for a reasonable price that wouldn’t jeopardize the club’s ability to go after what they need in the future. I just don’t think he’ll settle for that. I think another team that is desperate will give him more than he deserves. I don’t believe C.J. Wilson will wear a Ranger uniform for the 2012 season…and I’m okay with that.

Chris Kautz

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