SAN FRANCISCO Brian Wilson is a contrarian with a tastefor shock value. But you knew that already.
So it really shouldnt surprise anyone if hes thought aboutwearing a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform.
That thought is more than a passing whim, so hears Tim Brownof Yahoo! Sports. Reportedly, Wilsons preference, after returning to theGiants, would be to sign with their archrivals.
Wilson lives in the Los Angeles area in the offseason, whichmakes Chavez Ravine an attractive destination. Hes more an L.A. guy anyway.And as a pitchman, he certainly understands the importance of market size.
But could Wilson really be a vision in Blue and White on Opening Day?
Well, first hed have to become a free agent -- and that isvery likely to happen on Friday.
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As of now, Wilson remains under Giants control, in his finalyear of arbitration eligibility. But he would be free to negotiate with anyclub if the Giants do not tender him a contract by Fridays 9 p.m. (PST)deadline.
For most players with less than six years of service time,this is a paper deadline. But teams often choose to cut loose somearbitration-eligible players, knowing their salaries will exceed theirprojected value. Also, under terms of the collective bargaining agreement,teams cannot cut a players salary by more than 20 percent from the previousseason.
Wilson made 8.5 million this past season, when he pitchedin just two games before undergoing Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his rightelbow ligament. So through arbitration, he couldnt make less than 6.8 millionguaranteed in 2013.
There is absolutely no way the Giants will pledge that kindof guaranteed money to a player coming off his second Tommy John surgery, and who,by most rehab schedules, should not be ready to pitch on opening day. (Wilsonhas pledged to be fully operational, though.) Additionally, players coming offan elbow ligament repair usually need another 12 months of competitionfollowing 12 months of rehab before they begin to get full extension allowingthem to find that familiar late life on their pitches. So most relievers inWilsons shoes would be wobbling on the beam through 2013.
With the Giants payroll expected to make only modestmovement above the 130 million they spent in 2012, every dollar the Giants giveto Wilson is one they cannot spend elsewhere.
Make no mistake, the Giants want Wilson back just notthrough arbitration. So bank on this: if he hasnt agreed to terms with theGiants by Friday, hell become a free agent.
What kind of contract suits the Giants at this stage? Well, TheLos Angeles Angels provided a perfect template when they finalized their dealwith right-hander Ryan Madson, who required Tommy John surgery last spring andnever got off the ground as the Reds closer. Madson received a 3.5 millionguarantee with another 3.5 million in incentives (based on days spent on theactive roster and games finished).
Wilson has every right to feel like he deserves more of aguarantee, though. Amid his usual, cryptic comments, hes mentioned sacrificinghis elbow by extending himself down the stretch to help the Giants win theWorld Series in 2010.
Of course, correlation is not causation. And not everyone inthe Giants front office will agree with Wilsons claim. So this is a touchynegotiation, indeed.
The bottom line is this: Will another team on the openmarket guarantee Wilson more money than the Giants?
From a baseball standpoint, the answer is probably not.But from a marketing standpoint, the angles get interesting.
How much would it be worth to the Dodgers to see Wilsonwearing their uniform? More than 5 million? Id have to think so. This is afranchise that is throwing around money like its got a counterfeitingoperation humming in the basement. The Dodgers might pay that much just to seethe look on the Giants faces when Wilson pitches against them for the firsttime.
So this could turn out to be more than just a bluff on Wilson's part. Either way, it's got to make CEO Larry Baer feel a bit queasy.
Having covered this game for a long time, I can tell youthat baseball moves almost never work out when theyre made for marketingreasons. (Although every once in awhile, a Barry Zito will surprise you in Year6 of a millstone contract.)
Will the Giants view Wilson through baseball terms ormarketing terms? That, more than anything, will determine whether hes backwith the team next season.
The Giants remain in touch with the agents for Marco Scutaroand Angel Pagan, and it remains likely that Scutaro will re-sign for two yearsor perhaps two with an option. He has been a free agent before and knows all thesteps in this dance
Pagan is a 30-year-old free agent for the first time, and heknows this is his one shot at a massive money grab. Hes staying patient andletting the outfield market shape itself.
It began to coalesce Wednesday, with B.J. Upton showing themost first-step quickness among free-agent center fielders. He reportedly agreedto a five-year contract with the Atlanta Braves that will guarantee him atleast 70 million.
Upton was considered the second best free-agent centerfielder on the market, behind Michael Bourn. The Braves obviously preferredUpton on their terms over whatever Bourn is demanding, especially since theyllhave to sacrifice a first-round draft pick to Tampa Bay as compensation.
This is good and bad for the Giants. On one hand, the Braveswere interested in Pagan. So one of his bigger suitors has a full shoppingcart. (Although they still want a left fielder who could hit leadoff.) On the other hand, Upton got a fifth year. If he had signed a four-yeardeal, maybe Pagans market gets capped at three.
Just my gut: I think the Giants would be willing to givePagan three years but not four.
So the wait continues.
Just remember: If the Giants fail to re-sign Pagan, theyllneed to find both a leadoff hitter and an outfielder. Shane Victorino is outthere, and so is Ichiro Suzuki. But neither of them are so terrific in theon-base percentage department.
As for top outfield prospect Gary Brown, he likely wont beready anytime soon. He still has to make some big adjustments to competeagainst higher level pitching following a tough year at Double-A Richmond.