Brian Wilson’s Fantastic Offseason

On January 30 of this year Brian Wilson and the Giants came to an agreement on a one year deal for $4.4 million to avoid Wilson’s first year of arbitration. Based on our standard expectation of arbitration value, that would value Wilson at around $11 million for 2010. Now, Wilson was legitimately fantastic last season with a 2.50 FIP and a 3.23 xFIP. He had over three strikeouts for every walk and was a even moderate ground ball pitcher.

The issue is that even with all that, Wilson totaled 2.4 wins worth just under $11 million under last year’s economic conditions. In other words, the Giants paid out roughly as if 2009 was magically going to repeat entirely.

Obviously that’s a bit wishful as this past winter has seen a reduction in the valuation of players on the whole and on top of that, Wilson does not have a long history of dominance. Some regression to the mean from his 2009 level is to be expected and you readers agree, projecting Wilson for 1.8 wins in 2010.

In today’s dollars, that projects to be worth a tad over $8 million. That means that while the Giants are almost surely going to see a net savings when it comes to Brian Wilson, they’re unlikely to see a net savings compared to other 4th year players. Overall, that’s not such a big deal, but then the Giants went and extended Wilson for another two years covering 2011 and 2012 at a total of $15 million. Given the expected arbitration figures, that actually constitutes a slight pay cut for Wilson, valuing him at about $10.7 million for those two years.

Given that the 2010 salary had already taken place, I don’t have a huge beef with the monetary figures of the two-year extension. I think the initial deal was a mediocre one for the Giants, but they did much better here in terms of money alone. My issue with this deal is the why. I have a hard time seeing the scenarios under which the Giants saved themselves money here.

If Brian Wilson did repeat his 2009 performance, how much of a raise was he really going to get in arbitration? Compared to the downside that is always present with relief pitchers and that’s where I find fault with this extension. Wilson had a great season and he keeps that up for the next three years then the Giants might come out slightly ahead here. But they’re locked in no matter what, Brian Wilson’s performance isn’t.

We hoped you liked reading Brian Wilson’s Fantastic Offseason by Matthew Carruth!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

newest oldest most voted
SF 55 for life
SF 55 for life

I see the Giants trading Wilson some time in the next year. Maybe they thought teams would like him better if he had his arb years bought out already, or something.