2016 Statistics: Did not play, recovering from shoulder surgery
2015 Statistics: 132 IP, 3.89 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 7.74 K/9, 4.35 BB/9
Age on Opening Day 2017: 36
Position: Left-handed starting pitcher
It’s no secret that the Yankees are looking for pitching. According to Jon Heyman, the front office has been in touch with virtually every key free agent. That said, with supply at a minimum, it’s possible that the headline pitchers might prove too costly. Instead, the Yankees could turn to reclamation projects, pitchers looking to rebuild value on short-term deals. C.J. Wilson fits that profile, but does he make sense for New York?
Wilson, 36, did not pitch at all in 2016. He underwent shoulder surgery in July to repair a frayed labrum and torn rotator cuff. Wilson noticed the discomfort in spring training but attempted to rehab it before ultimately requiring surgery. He was also limited to 21 starts in 2015 before being shut down with bone spurs in his left elbow.
His injury history is lengthy, and it extends back to his days as a relief pitcher with the Texas Rangers. It’s unreasonable to think that at age 36, and coming off of a major shoulder surgery, Wilson will somehow remain healthy. Any team interested in the left-hander should understand there’s a good chance that he will require a trip to the disabled list. There’s no indication that he can stay healthy over the course of a full season.
While healthy, Wilson hasn’t exactly been effective either. He owns a 3.87 ERA (3.95 FIP) since the start of the 2012 season. That includes a dreadful 2014 where the southpaw posted a 4.51 ERA (4.31 FIP). When the Los Angeles Angels signed him to a five-year, $85 million contract in December 2011, they didn’t have this type of performance in mind. They expected a front-line starter.
Over this period, Wilson also saw his velocity decline. While never a flamethrower, he suffered a noticeable dip in recent years.
It’s possible that Wilson’s injuries contributed to his diminished velocity. Now that he’s healthy, he could regain some of the bite on his fastball. Counting on a 36-year-old southpaw to add to his velocity, however, isn’t exactly wise.
One of the other downsides to Wilson is his propensity to be wild. He isn’t like Michael Pineda who misses inside the strike zone. There are times when Wilson flat-out can’t throw strikes. He consistently has one of the highest BB/9 rates in the league.
Wilson moved into the rotation in 2010, but his control issues date back to his relief pitching days. That 2011 season is the outlier. He walks far too many, and there’s little reason to think that this trend will reverse itself.
On the positive side, when Wilson is on, he’s a groundball-inducing machine. In 2014, his last healthy season, he managed a 47.8% groundball rate. That’s exactly the type of pitcher the Yankees should be targeting. The hitter-friendly confines of American League East parks make groundball pitchers attractive.
Another plus is that Wilson absolutely carves up left-handed hitters. He first demonstrated this ability when he came up as a relief pitcher. He’s sustained that success as a starter, however.
When considering the short-porch, it would be nice to have a pitcher who can neutralize lefty batters. That skill set will put you on the radar for the Yankees.
Wilson has already drawn interest from the Miami Marlins. With that in mind, he seems like a better fit for a National League club. Adding an erratic pitcher who hasn’t taken the mound since July 2015 isn’t exactly an upgrade for the Yankees. It’s not difficult to imagine him struggling in the AL East. While I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad minor league deal, the Yankees might want to pass here.
What do you think? Would you roll the dice on C.J. Wilson? Let us know in the comments section.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball.