November 29, 2011
The BP First Take
Tuesday, November 29
After welcoming Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols to Miami earlier this offseason, the Marlins wooed C.J. Wilson on Monday. According to Wilson's agent, Bob Garber, the team "rolled out the red carpet" for his client, and the two sides came away with mutual interest. Unfortunately, one of the three aforementioned free agents is not like the others.
Reyes and Pujols are established superstars; Wilson is coming off of a tremendous 4.2 WARP season, but lacks a significant track record. Reyes and Pujols both have the appeal necessary to draw fans to the Marlins' new ballpark; Wilson—despite his 2.94 ERA last season and, in his agent's words, impressive charisma—is not going to sell nearly as many tickets. Reyes and Pujols would contend with LeBron James for attention on South Beach; Wilson would be an afterthought.
The Marlins' pursuit of Pujols seemed to be a combination of due diligence and showmanship from the start, and they won't win a bidding war with the Cardinals or any other suitor that may emerge. But Reyes is a more realistic possibility, and both he and Wilson are rumored to be seeking contracts in excess of $100 million. The difference is that Reyes is a means to the Marlins' desired end, while Wilson represents little more than an unnecessary risk.
Even if owner Jeffrey Loria is willing to squeeze two new nine-figure deals into his payroll, Wilson makes little sense for the Marlins. This winter's free-agent pitching crop is relatively weak, but a three-year deal for Mark Buehrle—or a shorter, cheaper one for a low-risk veteran—is a better fit for a team that is slowly building itself into an NL East contender.
The Marlins should be looking to add players who will peak as the team peaks, not decline when Miami needs them most. Exceptions to that rule can only be justified for superstars like Reyes or Pujols, because the new ballpark needs to be filled and the team needs to compete in the growing Miami sports market.
Wilson, who recently turned 31, doesn't fit either of those criteria. It's unclear why the Marlins found the need to "roll out the red carpet" for him at all.