Why the Yankees won’t sign C.J. Wilson

Scouting The Free Agent Market: Ryan Doumit
Nova finishes fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting

The Yankees might be in the market for pitching, and C.J. Wilson might be the best starting pitcher on the free agent market, but that doesn’t mean the two are a natural fit. Earlier today Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports relayed some information from major league execs. The general feeling seems to be that Wilson will get “at least five years” with an option, though one executive speculated that he’ll end up with a six-year deal. “It just takes one club,” the exec said. While that one team might have been the Yankees in years past, the possibility seems much less likely this off-season.

In the past the Yankees have heavily pursued starting pitching when they had a need. In 2008 they laid out a record-breaking contract for CC Sabathia before another team made an offer, and then outbid the Braves for A.J. Burnett. Last off-season they reluctantly added a seventh-year option to their offer for Cliff Lee. The Yankees again seek that elusive No. 2 to complement CC Sabathia atop the rotation, but the pursuit feels different this time. It doesn’t seem as though the Yankees will outbid the league for the top free agent starter, as they have in years past.

Earlier this month Mike wrote up the pros and cons of Wilson. While every free agent pitcher has a few things going against him, Wilson’s list of cons seems a bit deep for a pitcher about to sign a five- or six-year contract. The Yankees might go to four years, and maybe add a fifth option. But with a few alternatives on the free agent market (Edwin Jackson and Mark Buehrle), a possibility on the international market (Yu Darvish), and even more possibilities on the trade market, the Yankees will likely refrain from an all-out pursuit of Wilson. If another team comes in with an over-the-top offer, and Morosi’s sources indicate that such an offer is on the horizon, the Yankees will likely just let him walk and move on to the next target.

Adding C.J. Wilson to the 2012 rotation would surely shore up the pitching staff. Despite the factors working against him he’s still managed to have the 15th best ERA and the 22nd best FIP, while pitching the 20th most innings, in the last two years. While those numbers are certainly good, they’re not top-10 quality. The Yankees will likely balk at paying such a price for a top-20 arm. They have options elsewhere, and some up-and-coming pitchers in the minor league system, who could fit into the 2012 rotation. Wilson would be nice, but he’s just not worth the premium contract that he’s reportedly going to get.

Scouting The Free Agent Market: Ryan Doumit
Nova finishes fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting
  • Gonzo

    Of all starting pitchers to sign a contract with an AAV over $12mm, only 3 had never had a SO/BB ov 3.0 or higher. That’s out of 24 pitchers.

    Those three pitchers are Mike Hampton ($121mm), Barry Zito ($126mm), and Carlos Zambrano ($91.5mm). Even AJ (one season at 3.03) and Lackey (two at 3.44 & 3.25) squeezed in at least one before signing their contracts.

    CJ Wilson, even as a reliever, has never recorded a season where his has had a SO/BB rate higher than 3.0.

  • Now Batting

    When will the posting process for Darvish begin? If it’s before the time where teams begin to put out serious offers to Wilson, I’d think whether or not the Yankees win the bid for Darvish will have a big effect on how hard they pursue Wilson. Could absolutely see another Levine overruling of Cashman to make it happen too.

  • Hardy

    The article did not convince me that C.J. Wilson will get an “over-the-top offer” but Jackson, Buehrle and Darvish won’t.

    • http://www.bronxbaseballdaily.com Alex Taffet

      An over the top offer to C.J. Wilson will be in excess of $100 million. An over the top offer to Jackson or Buerhle will be less than half that. It seems that any time a team signs a free agent, they end up overpaying, but the risk is so much greater with a guy like Wilson.

      • Hardy

        There is always risk.
        Signing C.J. Wilson to a big contract includes the risk that you won’t get much of a return.
        Not signing C.J. Wlison to a big contract includes the risk that he signs with the Red Sox, has another 6 win season while you get replacement level performance from your not-ready prospects and miss the playoffs.

        • jsbrendog

          1 yr of missing the playoffs >>>>>>>>>>> 4-6 years of shitty wilson after that 1 good one

          • Hardy

            I think the Yankees disagree with your valuation.

        • Billion$Bullpen

          I would love to see the Red Sox sign Wilson to a 6 year deal for the money he is likely to get, just like I was happy to see them overpay for Crawford and Lackey. That would make my day. We have our own horrible deals on the books, I hope to see the Sox continue to do that while we hopefully move away from that as a business practice (the A-Rod and Soriano deals where we bid against ourselves)

  • CP

    Wilson’s list of cons seems a bit deep for a pitcher about to sign a five- or six-year contract.

    I disagree. The cons listed for Wilson (at least in the piece Mike wrote up) seem pretty weak to me. The issues listed were:

    1. Injury concerns. He’s been healthy for the last 3 seasons, so I don’t think these are particularly relevant now.

    2. There are questions over how long he’s been a starter. I actually view this as a positive because he has roughly 400 innings less wear and tear on his arm (compared to comparable FAs) because he was a reliever.

    3. There is the fact that he’s a type A free agent. Almost any pitcher who will get a long term deal would be a type-A.

    4. And then there is the issue of walks, which seems to me to be the only real negative.

    • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

      Re: Point No. 3…

      Most of the time that is the case, but in Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson and Yu Darvish the Yankees have three alternates to choose from that won’t cost a first round pick.

      That’s probably not the best reason to pick one guy over another, but if the Yanks don’t see Wilson as a superior option to those guys they might as well save the draft pick and the money, right?

    • Roy White

      How’s this for a negative: 1-5 W-L record in two postseasons with a 4.82 era and gave up 29 walks in 52 innings.

      • CP

        Andy Pettitte had a 5.63 ERA in his first 62.1 post season innings. With 22 walks, 29 K, and 13 HR.

        That didn’t turn out too badly, right?

    • all for cj

      I agree with CP except for item #4. He may have more walks but he is number one in ground out double plays in the league, which means he still gets them out even if he does walk them. Also, he has reduced the number of walks in 2011 over 2010, increased his strikeouts and increased his innings. In other words, he’s getting better and learning from his mistakes.

  • David Ortiz’s Dealer

    I have no statistical basis for this, but, CJ doesnt strike me as a guy who can “handle NY” like CC or Pettite, or even Jimmy Key, or even pre arm trouble Catfish. I look at CJ Wilson and I think Jeff Weaver / Ed Whitson 2 highly taught of guys before pinstripes.

  • Hardy

    Using ERA and FIP undersells Wilson’s perdormance over the last two years, because he pitches in an AL hitter’s park.
    He is tied for 8th in FIP- and tied for 7th in ERA-. He shares both ranks with Felix Hernandez.

    • Doug

      can i have that felix guy instead then?

      • Hardy

        Sure, but he is a tad more expensive.

        • the Other Steve S.

          Maybe Hank and Hal could buy the Mariners and then trade Felix to the Yanks.

          • Hardy

            That might be the cheapest way to acquire F-Her.

  • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

    I don’t have a problem with the Yankees passing on C.J. Wilson. His contract is likely going to be the longest and most lucrative out of any other free agent pitcher. Even though he’s the No. 1 arm on the market, it is reasonable to expect other available options (non Type-A options to boot) to surpass the overall value that Wilson would provide.

    • Hardy

      You have to sign a specific pitcher. So the question is:
      Who has a >50% chance to surpass Wilson’s overall value?

      • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

        I think you can make a good argument for Darvish, Jackson or Buehrle providing better value to the Yankees over the life of their hypothetical, respective contracts.

        • Holy Ghost

          Darvish is wishful thinking. No way to know for certain that he’ll perform at the level of a #2 or #3 starter or if he’ll even be able to join the rotation next season

          • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig Maduro

            Well yea. I didn’t say that you could definitively conclude that those guys would be a better value. I just said that I think you can make a good argument.

  • http://www.bronxbaseballdaily.com Alex Taffet

    A five year contract will take C.J. Wilson up to the age of 36. Most pitchers begin to lose their effectiveness by the mid-30’s. Say both CC Sabathia and C.J. Wilson follow this path. The Yankees would then have ~$50, or a quarter of the payroll, tied up in two old pitchers. He would undoubtedly make the Yankees better on paper right now, but over time, it would probably hurt.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/cfrs15 Robert

    “even more possibilities on the trade market”

    (Not trying to act smart)

    Who is available on the trade market? Are we sure Danks is available? Liriano, is he even good? Jair Jurrjens, would he survive in the AL [east]? Wandy Rodriguez (no thank you)?

    I’d take Gio Gonzalez and/or one of the Giants pitchers, but how much would it cost to get Gonzalez and are the Giants guys even available? (I think too much and no)

    With all that said I wouldn’t want to sign C.J. Wilson for more than three years, which means I wouldn’t sign C.J. Wilson. Yu Darvish though…

  • Gifted Go Gitta

    If Wilson was sharp in the playoffs, just about every poster here would be clamoring for his services no matter what the $$$ or years.

  • CMP

    I think I’d pass on CJ Wilson since he’s not an ace but is going to end up paid as one but the problem is if Darvish isn’t posted or the Yankees get outbid, there exists a very real chance the Yankees will have to go with a starting rotation of CC and Nova(who is no sure thing) and hope for the best from the Hughes/Burnett/Noesi/Garcia/Colon group which is pretty much the worst case scenario.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    I prefer Darvish and Buehrle the latter on short term (2-3yrs) so that the progress of youngsters Banuelos and Betances will not be retarded. If neither of those can be signed, we go to plan B. This is give the spots to Noesi and Phelps and if this does not work out plan C. This wait for the trading deadline and see what we can get.

    • Hardy

      Plan A is to either sign a player who has stated that he is only interested to pitch in St. Louis or Chicago to a below market contract or to sign a player via the unpredictable posting process. Plan B is to give two rotation spots to players who are projected to be about replacement level. Plan C is to overpay at the trading deadline.

      I am not sold on this.

      • Jose M. Vazquez..

        If we get to plan C it means that Murphy’s law is working against us and thus it’s better to wait until the following year. Seriously, I think Buehrle would be a fine pick up if he wants to pitch for us. Darvish would cost plenty in posting fees but the Yankees could probably put that into expenses at the time of filing with the IRS.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Pass on CJ. We need opposing pitchers we can dominate in the post season.

  • David Ortiz’s Dealer

    I think the Yankees sign a starting pitcher just not Wilson, maybe I am too hopeful but I like Buehrle, I think the 3 year deal he’ll command will work fine with the Yanks big picture roster plan.

    CC / Nova / Burnett* / Garcia** / Free Agent or Hughes or Noesi

    * per Cash’s comments AJ in the pen isnt even a thought
    ** per various reports sounds like both sides are open to this happening again

  • Holy Ghost

    It costs around 7 years/130 million to sign an ace on the FA market these days so 100 to 120 million seems to be the starting point for the second-tier guys. Wilson isn’t an ace but he certainly appears to be at or near the top of the second-tier starting pitchers in baseball.

    I’d be surprised if Wilson gets more than 100 million or more than 5 years.

    The problem for the Yankees and Red Sox is that they’d have to use Burnett and Lackey’s contracts as starting points for any negotiations with Wilson.

    CJ has performed better than AJ and Lackey over the past two years so he’s justified in expecting an equal or better annual salary. I’m not sure if Wilson is justified in asking for a 5 to 6 year contract. I think a lot of teams will pass on Wilson if he’s looking for a long-term deal.

    • all for cj

      I’m thinking 85 to 90 plus incentives on a 5 year deal which isn’t bad for a guy with his stats.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    I have been pondering that in a few years the Yankees may have a home developed staff consisting of (not necessarily in order of importance) Banuelos, Betances, Noesi, Hughes and Phelps or another farmhand. That would be absolutely fantabulous.

    • Hardy

      I think you have missed the best bet to be in the rotation: Ivan Nova.
      And while your scenario is possible, it could also be that none of the players you mentioned will have a league average season in their future.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    You are absolutely correct and I don’t know how I missed that . Thank you very much.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    You are absolutely correct. I’m sorry I missed Nova. This comment was just daydreaming.

  • toad

    Another reason not to sign Wilson is the strength of next year’s FA class. Wilson’s contract will surely constrain the team’s ability to go after top players next year. The money is not infinite, and you do have to think more than one year ahead.

  • KPOcala

    The mentioned need to carry one more reliever in place of another bat off the bench should educate the fan that doesn’t understand the value of an innings eating stud. A good bench player is a hell of a lot more valuable than having a guy sit and do nothing for a week or two at a time. That alone should help explain to the nonbelievers out there that pitchers such Blyleven, Kaat, Tommy John,et al should have either been inducted into the Hall or should be. Quality innings pitcher are worth way more than the modern fan understands. This current idea of a guy being a “work horse” with 200 innings pitched is a pure crock…….