Entering spring training, the Texas Rangers reportedly offered C.J. Wilson a contract extension worth $35 million over 3 years.
That's not a terrible contract, especially not for a guy that had one season of starting under his belt in which he'd far surpassed his career-high workload. It certainly wasn't a guarantee that Wilson would repeat his 2010 success this year. It was guaranteed that Wilson would have $35 million in his pocket, an upgrade from his current one-year deal for just over $7 million which expires in a month or two, depending on the Rangers season.
But Wilson said no and entered his contract year needing to prove he can be a starting pitcher after winning 15 games with a 3.35 ERA in 2010.
On Tuesday night in Tampa Bay, Wilson followed up his previous start (also against the Rays) in which he went five perfect innings by earning his first-career complete-game shutout.
He allowed five hits with six strikeouts and three walks while matching his 2010 win total with a few weeks still remaining in the season and a chance to get to 18 or so wins. His ERA is a crisp 3.13.
So there's no doubt that Wilson has driven up his price this winter in free agency. Initial reaction to the Angels re-signing Jered Weaver to a seemingly cheap, hometown discount price last month was that it would set the tone for the market and drive down Wilson's price. But what if it just makes Wilson the most desirable free agent starter in the winter (he already is) and sets the price at whatever Wilson wants it to be.
Wilson's a hard guy to read. He seems to enjoy Texas and vice versa, but then you hear stuff about how his teammates sometimes just "tolerate" him. He's not your typical baseball player as far as his personality and mindset go. He's had clubhouse run-ins before like when he made a remark years ago to the effect that he wished there were more smart people in baseball like him that wanted to talk politics and philosophy and stuff. Again, that was a while back, and I'm sure it's all blown over, but you just can't get a good read as to how Wilson will handle his contract situation following the season.
Is he an ace? He's really starting to look like one. In his last 10 starts, he's had a few stinkers, but he's 10-7 following a Rangers loss, which is a pretty significant number. The bigger question is, if you decide you don't want to throw a bunch of money Wilson's way because you don't think he's a true ace, who do you go get to take his place? And please don't say "Neftali Feliz".
There's been talk that if Wilson leaves the Rangers will be significant factors in the Albert Pujols/Prince Fielder sweepstakes. But Pujols and Fielder aren't top-of-the-rotation pitchers, and the Rangers have enough pop in their lineup.
It'll be an interesting off-season, that's for sure.