- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
I've owned San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Brian Wilson -- see, we can no longer say "closer" -- in my oldest fantasy league for a few years, and I quietly tried to trade him in March. Looking at Wilson's 2011 season, one didn't need a master's degree in fantasy to realize Wilson's best days were likely behind him, though I still expected a decent 2012 season from him, with many saves. On Friday, I blogged about my concern regarding Wilson (and Giancarlo Stanton, who thankfully had a better weekend) and noted I would try to deal him while his name value was high.
Well, that didn't take long. The value is pretty much gone now after Wilson's throwing elbow was deemed a mess on Saturday, with structural damage and a pending surgery to clean things up. Wilson's season, like that of fellow closers Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson, is over, and fantasy owners are left to pick up the pieces. As for me, I had planned to start fielding trade offers for Wilson in that league on Monday. Well, perhaps I'll use that time to write another blog entry now, or try to acquire a closer.
Wilson was the No. 4 closer off the board in ESPN average live drafts for this season, which I thought was a bit optimistic, but I also didn't expect this. Even last season, with constant elbow trouble, a declining strikeout rate and a mere five innings pitched from August 1 on, he saved 36 games with a 3.11 ERA. The Giants don't score a ton of runs, but the rotation is loaded, and that tends to provide a closer with many opportunities. Perhaps that's why we're all so interested in whom manager Bruce Bochy chooses as his next closer.
ESPN colleague Christina Kahrl blogged about this very issue Saturday, pointing out Bochy's past fortunes with closers (Trevor Hoffman) and whom the current options are, while explaining the proposed closer-by-committee solution Bochy is telling the media. Will both Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo, each a veteran right-hander coming off a very good season, share saves like Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez seem to be doing capably for the Washington Nationals? Or will we see a stunning move like Chicago White Sox newcomer Robin Ventura pulled with unknown lefty Hector Santiago? The Giants lost 4-1 Sunday, so we got no hints there.
Casilla is owned in 1.9 percent of ESPN leagues, up 1.7 percent over the past week, but much of that probably came since the Wilson announcement. Romo, who issued only five walks last season (four unintentional) in 48 innings, while fanning 70, is owned in 9.1 percent of leagues, up 2.5 percent in the past week. ESPN Fantasy owners are clearly choosing Romo. I agree Romo is the better choice, all things considered, but in this case, I think the committee idea has merit, mainly because Romo isn't the most durable fellow. In fact, one could surmise the reason Casilla was able to save six games late last season when Wilson was out was because Romo was not available in the first place. Then again, Casilla has never thrown as many as 60 innings in his big league career. Romo did (barely) in 2010.
If you have one roster spot for a closer, to be honest, I wouldn't use it on a Giant. I'm thinking Romo, Casilla and even lefty Javier Lopez -- currently the top Giants reliever on the Player Rater -- will all accrue some saves, with nobody topping 20. Meanwhile, the combined ownership in ESPN leagues for Fernando Rodney and Chicago's Santiago doesn't even equal 100 percent, and there's no end in sight for them saving games. Chris Perez is oddly on the most dropped list, but he's clearly the Cleveland Indians' closer. I think for the next two months Washington's Rodriguez will perform well in tandem with Lidge. They're each readily available. I don't think Jonathan Broxton will be closing much longer, but he's owned in only 55 percent of leagues.
I'd go with Romo over Casilla, but this is likely to be a fluid situation. If I was ranking for number of saves this season among pitchers I just mentioned, I'd go with Perez, Rodney, Santiago and Rodriguez -- who really knows when Drew Storen will return? -- and then Romo and Casilla, in that order, and then Lidge and Broxton.
Of course, with Wilson, Madson and Soria already done, Storen, Andrew Bailey and Kyle Farnsworth out indefinitely and a few others certainly worrying fantasy owners -- Heath Bell had a brutal weekend -- there will be plenty of saves on the free-agent wire this season. Hopefully I'll be able to trade the ones I'm concerned about before the MRIs are performed.
Eric Karabell discusses the fantasy repercussions of Brian Wilson's elbow injury, breaking down the Giants' bullpen and offering up replacement options.