According to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, the Washington Nationals are scouting Texas Rangers‘ LHP C.J. Wilson. The Nats have been looking for that big name pitching signing (it was the main focus of GM Mike Rizzo last off-season), and despite the return of Stephen Strasburg, the team should certainly still be looking. The future rotation of the Nats looks incredibly promising, but the average age will be exceptionally young, and the average experience will be relatively little. The 30-year-old Wilson could provide a bit of an older presence.
His ability to eat innings over the last two seasons would be the most valuable aspect of his presence. This season, Wilson’s thrown 215.1 innings and counting, and he threw 204 innings last season. Stephen Strasburg, the Opening Day starter next season, will almost certainly be on a strict innings limit while he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Jordan Zimmermann, likely the #2 or #3 starter, will be entering just his 2nd full season since returning from Tommy John surgery. Wilson, also a Tommy John survivor, could help both pitchers in their recoveries.
Wilson has put together an impressive set of Saber stats over the last two seasons:
2011: 215.1 IP; 5.5 WAR; 3.24 FIP; .286 BABIP; 2.87 K/BB
2010: 204 IP; 4.4 WAR; 3.56 FIP; .255 BABIP; 1.83 K/BB
All of these things still leave me a bit uneasy, though. Going into the 2012 season, Wilson will be 31 years old and has just 2 full seasons as a starter under his belt. Prior to 2010, the most innings he’s ever pitched in one season was in 2009 at 73.2 IP, and none of them were as a starter. Wilson’s story is a great one of recovery, but two good seasons doesn’t automatically mean the team should spend the type of money he’ll likely command when he becomes a free agent after this season.
Tim Dierkes of MLBTR.com suggests that Wilson may command more than John Lackey and A.J. Burnett, who both received five-year, $82.5 million contracts at the time of their signings. That’s a lot of money to spend on a player who is already in his 30s with only 2 years of experience as a starter in the last 5 seasons. There’s a part of me that wonders if my thought process on this is based on a whole “East Coast bias” thing, as the only time I ever get to see Wilson pitch is in the playoffs. (Sorry, I don’t often catch a Rangers/As game on MLB.tv, though I might tonight.) To me, he certainly wouldn’t be a bad player to have, but it is a matter of value on return. The Nats have shown they’re willing to pony up the money for a big name guy (see: Werth, Jayson), and they will have to worry about Ryan Zimmerman‘s contract extension soon, though, and that’s not going to be cheap. It’ll be extremely interesting to see where and how the Nationals choose to spend their money this offseason.