C.J. Wilson on the block, teams interested …
NASHVILLE — C.J. Wilson has, predictably, come up in trade discussions at the Winter Meetings, especially now that the once-robust free-agent market for starting pitchers has significantly dried out.
Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Scott Kazmir remain on the board, but teams — most notably the Mariners, who acquired Wade Miley as a fallback after Hisashi Iwakuma agreed to terms with the Dodgers — are starting to explore trade options.
Wilson is appealing, because he’s only signed for one more year, is already fully recovered from early August surgery to remove loose bodies from his pitching elbow and has a track record of durability. A team that acquires him via trade would not only get a short-term fix for their rotation; but a potential first-round pick by giving Wilson a qualifying offer at season’s end.
Wilson is owed $20 million in 2016 and can block trades to eight teams. How much of his salary the Angels are willing to take on remains to be seen, but they’ll probably have to at least absorb some of it.
The savings could expand the payroll and make it easier for the Angels, roughly $20 million below the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, to sign a premier outfielder.
Several teams still need starting pitching. The Yankees need help in the rotation, and the Pirates would like a rental (though the money may be a deterrent with Pittsburgh). The Orioles could be a fit, as can the D-backs. And the Padres would love a left-handed starter.
One ideal match could be the Cardinals, who have a void in the rotation with Lance Lynn spending the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. After missing out on David Price, the Cardinals don’t seem interesting in giving a free-agent pitcher a long-term deal. They prefer the kind of short-term answer Wilson may provide.
Angels general manager Billy Eppler said teams have called about his pitchers, in the rotation and in the bullpen.
“Probably a tick more on the starters,” Eppler said, “but getting called on both.”
Wilson is one of eight starters that can conceivably be in the Angels’ rotation next season, now that Tyler Skaggs is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. Eppler reiterated that he’s hesitant to part with that depth, saying that “there’s some element of that where you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
But Wilson could be an exception, because the savings on his contract — and perhaps the player he can bring in return, if the Angels absorb a significant amount of his 2016 salary — could be crucial.