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Are the Texas Rangers Preparing to Say Good-bye to C.J. Wilson?

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During this offseason, the Texas Rangers are preparing for the strong possibility that they will lose their number one starting pitcher, C.J. Wilson, who is currently a free agent.  There are multiple suitors for him, including the Rangers’ divisional rivals, the L.A. Angels.

Los Angeles Angels

The 2011 season was a good one for Wilson, a left-hander, as he pitched his team to a respectable 16 wins on the season, the best record on the Rangers’ staff.  The Angels are specifically looking for a left-handed pitcher who can fit into its starting rotation.

Jerry Dipoto, the Angels’ general manager, says the team is very interested in Wilson and hopes that the Southern California native feels the same about a move to Anaheim (according to ESPN Dallas).  Dipoto has already had a long meeting with Wilson’s agent, Bob Garber, during the GM meetings in Milwaukee this week.

After the year in which the Angels let catcher and first baseman Mike Napoli get away, eventually ending up in Texas, a deal with Wilson would be even sweeter for them.  Napoli hit for a .320 batting average this year and was far and away Texas’ most valuable player in the 2011 World Series.

C.J. WilsonWeighing the Value of a Pitcher

At the end of the 2010 season, which was capped by the Rangers’ first trip to the fall classic, Texas lost its midseason acquisition, ace pitcher, Cliff Lee, to free agency.  Wilson took Lee’s place at the top of the rotation for Texas in 2011, and he accomplished an ERA of 2.94, which ranked seventh in the American League.

One thing Rangers observers learned from last year’s free agent race for Cliff Lee, the Rangers front office has a limit on how far it will go to keep top caliber pitchers.  Lee, who is a bona fide ace, left the door open to stay in Texas in 2010, but he wanted a seven-year contract to do so.  According to ESPN Dallas, it was the length of the contract that Texas viewed as the deal killer.

Wilson, on the other hand, is an excellent rotation pitcher, but he suffered all year long in 2011 with opinions locally that he is not a real “ace,” which is a pitcher who can be counted on to shut down the opposition most times, even in the midst of a losing streak. 

The biggest knock on Wilson is his ineffectiveness in the postseason.  He is the first pitcher ever to have lost a game in the divisional and league championship series, the World Series, and an all-star game in the same season. 

Known for his quirkiness and his verbosity, a dangerous combination, C.J. Wilson has lots of fans, and many of the Rangers faithful would hate to see him go.  But, to many others, he has disappointed in the playoffs two years in a row. 

The Rangers believe it is a team who will compete for several years at the highest level, so a shut-down pitcher for the playoffs is a priority.  Wilson just may not fit the bill.

A Probable Good-bye

Talk of moving Neftali Feliz out of his closing role and into the starting rotation probably does not have legs.  The experiment worked with Alexi Ogando, but the extra innings he pitched as a starter is believed to have taken a toll on him late in the season and in the World Series.  Speculation is that Feliz could lose a few miles per hour on his fastball by pitching in the starting rotation, and he has not yet developed a strikeout pitch to use if his fastball isn’t up to speed. 

The chances are good that Wilson will pitch somewhere besides Arlington, Texas, next year.  Considered to be one of the hottest commodities on the free agency market this offseason, some team will offer him more money and a longer contract than what the Rangers are willing to do. 

It is not because the pockets aren’t deep enough, but in the overall calculation of one pitcher’s value to a team, Rangers management is likely to bow out of the competition early with a lowball contract offer and roll the dice again this year to acquire just enough pitching and hitting talent to make another run for the pennant.  With a young pitching staff and one of the best farm systems, the Texas Rangers want to win next year, but it is far from selling its soul.

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About ToddT

I enjoy baseball and writing about it. I pay to see independent league play, the Fort Worth Cats and the Grand Prairie AirHogs, and I follow the Texas Rangers rather passionately. A native of the Dallas area, I am nearing 60 years old, and I have been married to my college sweetheart for 36 years and counting.