Wilson's agents talking to many clubs, but not Giants

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Wilson's agents talking to many clubs, but not Giants

NASHVILLE – The Giants are keeping the door open to re-sign Brian Wilson, but they expect the popular three-time All-Star closer to roam the market for awhile to assess his value.

Giants vice president Bobby Evans said he had two phone conversations with Wilson’s agent, Dan Lozano, following the GM meetings a month ago. But they haven’t spoken about Wilson at the winter meetings here at Opryland Resort.

Lozano told the San Francisco Chronicle that seven teams have shown interest in Wilson as either a closer or setup man; the agent didn’t specify whether the Giants were counted among those teams.

Evans stressed that the Giants want to remain engaged, and that has been communicated to Lozano and Co.

“He hasn’t been out there long. He needs time to see what his options are,” Evans said. “There’s clearly an understanding we have interest to keep the door open and bring him back.”

The market for Wilson remains difficult to gauge. On one hand, Joakim Soria, another closer who had his second Tommy John surgery in April, just received a two-year, $8 million deal with an option for 2015 from the Texas Rangers. On the other hand, some officials privately expressed concern with Wilson’s eccentric personality, and wonder if the act will become a distraction if plans go awry and he ends up pitching in a losing environment.

One rival GM suggested Wilson’s best course would be to re-sign with the Giants, where they know him and understand him and would be patient if he struggles to regain his form.

Health remains a major question for Wilson, who underwent his second Tommy John surgery on April 19. Although recovery from a first reconstructive elbow surgery is a full 12 months, and typically even longer following a second procedure, Wilson has vowed to be ready by opening day.

Evans acknowledged that goal is far from a guarantee, though.

“Being out there opening day is a great goal, and I wouldn’t put it past him, if his medical team supports that,” Evans said. “But it’s more important you be there for the last out in the second half of the season. … Brian understands that.

“Whether it’s us or anybody else who signs him, you have to prepare for him not to be out there if it’s not in his best interests. It may mean some alternative plans at the beginning of the year. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Just moments after the distillation of those comments were posted on Twitter, they apparently elicited a rapid response by way of Yahoo! Sports reporter Tim Brown:

“Source: Brian Wilson has been told by surgeon James Andrews that he will be cleared for spring training and ready by opening day,” Brown posted to his Twitter account.

Yes, it's clear the Giants and Wilson don't agree on much these days. Expect more back-and-forth between Wilson’s camp and the Giants, who non-tendered the right-hander on Friday rather than offer him a contract that would net him a salary of no less than $6.8 million through arbitration. Wilson was said to feel jilted by that decision, even though he pocketed $8.5 million for throwing just 56 pitches last season.

Harder to quantify is Wilson’s legacy in San Francisco and the residue of his contributions in 2010, when he contends he sacrificed his arm down the stretch before throwing the final pitch to clinch the franchise’s first World Series title since moving from New York in 1958.

With Wilson currently a free agent, the Giants’ current plan would be to use 2012 postseason hero Sergio Romo as the closer, augmented by Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla.

On a side note, prominent agent Scott Boras touched on the Giants bullpen during his annual briefing with reporters on Wednesday, saying it was an anomaly for a club to succeed without a stable, established presence in the closer role.

Boras is representing bullpen ace Rafael Soriano, of course.

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler is headed from the World Series champions to their biggest rival.

After helping the Chicago Cubs end their long championship drought, he finalized an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Fowler fills the last big hole left in the Cardinals lineup after moves made earlier in the offseason to shore up the bullpen.

"It was an honor just to be considered to be in the Cardinals organization," said Fowler, who will wear No. 25 in honor of his mentor, Barry Bonds, because his usual 24 is retired by the Cardinals.

"You play against the Cardinals, I've been playing against them for eight years now," Fowler said, "and they always come out fighting. Always fighting. And then being with a rival, being the Cubs however many times we play them a year, you see them and - it's always good a winning team wants you."

Fowler was also a free agent a year ago, when he spurned a $33 million, three-year offer from Baltimore, who refused to offer an opt out after one year, and signed a $13 million, one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. He hit .276 with 13 homers and a career-best .393 on-base percentage that landed him in his first All-Star Game, then had a pair of home runs in helping the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years.

"Playing over there, and playing against the Cardinals, you see them and you saw that they weren't far away," Fowler said. "Obviously they beat up on us, we beat up on them. It was almost even. It was one day or another. I can't put my finger on one thing or another, but we're definitely close."

His new deal calls for a $10 million signing bonus, payable in $1 million installments each July 1 and Oct. 1 for the next five years, and annual salaries of $14.5 million.

He gets a full no-trade provision, $50,000 bonuses for making the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove, a $25,000 bonus for a Silver Slugger, $100,000 for League Championship Series MVP and $150,000 for World Series MVP. He would get $250,000 for NL MVP, $150,000 for finishing second in voting and $100,000 for third through fifth. He would get $50,000 for Division Series MVP if the award is created.

One of the goals this offseason for St. Louis was to get more athletic, both defensively and on the base paths. Fowler was identified early in the process as someone who filled that role.

"He was always someone we were hoping to sign," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said, "but after this past week at winter meetings ... we certainly wanted to get this done. And we're excited we got this done."

The lanky 30-year-old from Atlanta is a .268 career hitter over nine seasons with Colorado, Houston and the Cubs. He's expected to slot into the Cardinals' leadoff spot, giving St. Louis a switch-hitter in front of lefty-hitting Matt Carpenter and righties Aledmys Diaz, Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina.

"You obviously have great presence at the top of the lineup," manager Mike Matheny said. "The athleticism, the excitement of bringing in a player that has all those physical attributes, I think it's been well-said, this is the guy we were hoping to be sitting up here with."

Fowler said negotiations with the Cardinals were easy with one notable exception.

"We were on a 2-hour time difference, and I guess he wanted to get in touch with me," Fowler said, "but I was in the dentist chair, so he couldn't get in touch."

So, Fowler sent his agent Casey Close a photo of him to pass along to Mozeliak - "That was a first for me, that kind of photo," the GM said - and everything proceeded smoothly after that.

The news of his signing started breaking while Fowler was on a plane to St. Louis, and that also created some problems: namely, with his sleep. People started coming up to him while he was trying to take a nap and asking him whether the news was true.

"I was like, 'Uh, you know, I don't know,'" Fowler said with a grin. "It was definitely funny."

Fowler is eager to help the Cardinals add their 12th World Series championship.

"This is a baseball city," said Fowler. "The fans, every time you come here, you see red everywhere. That's awesome to see. Even going through our parade (in Chicago), you saw Cardinals fans out there. They've won World Series (and) they're poised to be back in the World Series and win again. That was a big part of my decision."

The Cardinals were investigating the trade market for an outfielder during the winter meetings, but decided Fowler was their best option. Because Fowler did not accept Chicago's $17.2 million qualifying offer, St. Louis forfeits its top draft pick next June, No. 18 overall, and the Cubs get an extra selection after the first round as compensation

It was a sacrifice the Cardinals were willing to make to not only improve their lineup, but snag a piece away from their biggest rival in the NL Central.

"There's always the baseball angle in all decisions, but there's also the human element," Mozeliak said. "We think about him as a leader. He wants to have a voice in that clubhouse. When you think back to wanting to change the culture of what we have going on - we like what we have, but now it's even better."

Giants' 2015 first-round draft pick suspended 50 games

Giants' 2015 first-round draft pick suspended 50 games

Former Giants pitching prospect Phil Bickford is suspended for the first 50 games of the 2017 Carolina League season for a second positive test for drug of abuse, MLB announced on Friday.

Before the 2016 deadline, San Francisco traded the 21-year old (along with Andrew Susac) to the Brewers in exchange for left-handed reliever Will Smith.

The Giants selected Bickford with the 18th overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Over 11 starts for Single-A Augusta last year, the right-hander went 3-4 with a 2.70 ERA.

In six starts for Single-A San Jose, he went 2-2 with a 2.73 ERA.