Now that CC Sabathia has reworked his contract with the Yankees, C.J. Wilson is the best remaining starter (non-Yu Darvish division) on the free agent market. The 31-year-old lefty scuffled in the postseason, but he ranks 24th in Fielding Independent Pitching and ninth in Wins Above Replacement among qualified starting pitchers since he converted from the bullpen two years ago.
Wilson recently told Paul Salfen of Scorecard Daily that he could easily see himself staying in Texas:
"Yeah, there’s a great chance because I like it here and I’ve won here." He added later, "It’s now all about figuring out how all of the guys on the team – not just me – there’s Elvis, Nelson, Josh, Ian – a lot of guys have contractual things that are coming up. I think one thing the Rangers want me to know is what they’re planning on doing with all of these other guys in the long term. So that gives me confidence that we’re going to keep winning."
With Sabathia no longer an option and presumably lots of revenue coming in due to two straight World Series appearances and a 10,000 fan-per-game increase in attendance over the past few seasons, the Rangers have plenty of reasons to lock up Wilson. But, in addition to playing for a winning club, Wilson has one big reason to stay: the Rangers' elite infield defense helps him out greatly.
Wilson induces a lot of ground balls, as his 49.4 GB% over the past two years is well above the 45.3 percent average for starters since 2010. And Texas' infield D, with 2011 Gold Glove winner Adrian Beltre at third, shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler, does a fantastic job at converting those grounders into outs.
Over the 2010-2011 seasons, Wilson has a .211 opponent batting average on ground balls hit. For comparison, the big league average for starters over that time frame is .239. Only Toronto's Ricky Romero (.189 BABIP on grounders) and Oakland's Trevor Cahill (.192) had lower BABIP figures on grounders among starters with at least 500 batters faced.
Beltre, Andrus and Kinsler not only keep hitters from reaching base on grounders, but they help Wilson eliminate them if they do get on first. Rangers fielders turned a double play in 14 percent of their opportunities with Wilson on the mound in 2010, and 20 percent of the time in 2011. The MLB average is 11 percent. Wilson's 52 total double plays over the past two years rank fourth among starters, behind just Atlanta's Tim Hudson, Romero and Sabathia.
With comparatively little mileage on his arm and improved performance against right-handed batters, Wilson should succeed no matter where he lands. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a better destination than the one he has called home for the past seven seasons.