In his highly-recommended blog entitled Obviously, You're Not a Golfer
, my friend Matthew Leach, Cardinals beat writer for MLB.com, joins the growing ranks of the Juan Encarnacion
-doubters. In this instance, Leach expresses longing in his heart over another.
Leach wistfully eyes
Houston's signing of outfielder Preston Wilson and wishes the Cardinals had strode up to that altar instead of getting
hitched with Encarnacion. Though he acknowledges that
Wilson built his best year at Coors
Field, Leach appropriately excludes those numbers and still sees a decent power hitter
for the price.
On the surface, during a winter
with limited free-agent outfield talent available, it seemed odd that
Wilson was still looking for a job after
such luminaries as Eric Byrnes and Jeromy Burnitz (twice!) had already found
In all fairness, Leach does note
that Wilson is two years older than
Encarnacion. But Leach made a major omission. His analysis, while solid from a
statistical perspective, completely misses any mention of the biggest single
issue with Wilson - his extensive medical
Fortunately, major league teams
are likely more diligent. I am sure any organization who did consider the player
dug deeply into Wilson's history, especially with his
oft-injured left knee. I suspect up to 29 teams may not have liked what they
saw. In fact, even the Colorado Rockies' own 2005 press guide refers multiple
times to Wilson's "chronic" knee
Still, Leach seems to be
scratching his head over Wilson having to accept a weird
one-year/four-year deal for $4.5 million in 2006 that could escalate to $28
million through 2009. Like there is any chance the Astros will pick up those
next three years at that price…
Let's face it,
Wilson is damaged goods. Otherwise, how
could anyone explain his ceiling-to-floor drop in valuation? Back in 2001,
Wilson was on top of the world, signing
what at that time was the largest contract ever given to a major league player
who was not yet arbitration-eligible – a whopping five years for $32
Since coming up originally with
the Mets, Wilson has been traded three times,
being very available at last season's trade deadline. By eating most of his
remaining salary, the Rockies did finally move
Wilson to the lowly Washington
Nationals, who were so impressed they cut him loose after the season.
Apparently to secure a contract
for 2006, Wilson had to drop from making $12
million in 2005 to about one-third of that in 2006. Is that a bargain or a
reflection of faded glory?
Don't get me wrong.
Wilson was a very durable player and a
valuable centerfielder earlier in his career, but that was in the past. His more
recent history clearly paints a different picture:
12/05 - The Newark Star-Ledger reports the New York Yankees have no
interest in free-agent outfielder Preston Wilson due to concerns about his
health. (Just an example of the typical offseason news about
Wilson removed his knee brace when
playing in the field.
Wilson was again sidelined with his
fourth illness in a month.
Wilson undergoes microfracture surgery
on his left knee to try to enhance cartilage growth. It is his second surgery on
the knee that season, ending his 2004 campaign at 58 games
Wilson had three torn cartilage
particles removed from his left knee and his meniscus shaved. He was out until
Frankly, I would have expected to
see Wilson move to the American League for
2006 and beyond. Still, for Houston, this deal may make some sense.
Despite having what seemed to be a full starting line-up, there may be ample
at-bats for Wilson.
The ‘Stros feature the aged and
infirm Jeff Bagwell at first base and the equally-aged, but less infirm Craig Biggio at second base. Lance Berkman can slide from outfield to first while
Chris Burke can cover at second, potentially opening up room for
Wilson to get playing
So, let's allow the Houstonians to
enjoy their big celebration over signing Wilson. After all, it is the highlight
so far for the reigning National League champions during an offseason of
inaction. The biggest news previously was that their best player, a certain
43-year-old pitcher, has returned to his personal career limboland with almost
nothing else happening in Houston other than everyone getting a
But, the Cardinals are in a
different situation. I was originally ambivalent about Encarnacion, but choosing
between these two, I'll take the guy with some potential upside. At least
Encarnacion has the history to be able to play every day that
Wilson now seems to have left in his
rearview mirror. If the Cards had signed Wilson instead, in a far-from-ideal
scenario, I would have predicted So Taguchi for another 400 at-bat season in
Of course, the stats crowd doesn't
always consider defense. But how can you not look at Busch III with its deeper
power alleys and not wonder how the formerly-speedy, but now bad-kneed
Wilson would fare with the glove? Jim Edmonds can't cover extra ground for everyone out there.
In fact, if the Cardinals wanted
to sacrifice defense and roll the injury dice again, why didn't they just keep
Reggie Sanders around? I am going to monitor Wilson's 2006 season in comparison to
Sanders', and I wouldn't be surprised to see each struggle to answer the bell
for 120 games.
Bottom line, Matthew, I have to
disagree with you on this one. Wilson at $4.5 million over Encarnacion
for $3.5 million as the Cardinals' starting right fielder? Maybe in 2001; but in
2006, I'm just not seeing it. How about the potential of
Wilson at $7.5 million more for 2007
versus Encarnacion at $5 million, then? Nope. That doesn't cut it for me,
Obviously, I'm not a doctor, but I
did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night!
Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Some like Houston's new outfield signee, Preston Wilson, more than the Cardinals' recent addition, Juan Encarnacion. Brian Walton is not among them.
Some like Wilson more than Juan Encarnacion. Brian Walton is not among them.