Detroit Tigers reliever Justin Wilson's name has been tossed around the occasional trade rumor this month, and now a team that knew him once may bring him back. Per a tweet from Anthony Fenech of The Detroit Free Press, the New York Yankees have entered the sweepstakes for Wilson as he continues his breakout season.
Wilson has turned a lot of heads this year, and not just because he has posted a 2.75 ERA and struck out 55 hitters in 39.1 innings in 41 appearances. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has also posted 12 saves and upped his value tremendously. He also has a year of arbitration left, so Tigers GM Al Avila could indeed use that to ask interested teams for prospects so that Detroit's minor league system can be restocked.
This means that the New York Yankees need to start hard negotiations with the Tigers right now as the deadline is just a few days away. Wilson would fill a great need for the team and knowing GM Brian Cashman, a deal can definitely be made.
Wilson the former Yankee
The most obvious reason the Yankees should trade for Wilson is that he has played for them before and proved he can handle the New York fans. The Bronx Bombers acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates for catcher Francisco Cervelli prior to the 2015 season and the young lefty impressed that year, posting a 3.10 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 74 appearances. Wilson also struck out 66 hitters in 61 innings as New York earned an AL wild card spot that year.
Wilson was then traded to the Tigers for pitchers Luis Cessa and Chad Green, the latter of whom has become something of a bullpen staple in New York this year. His being traded was something of a shocking move, as he was arbitration eligible and performed well enough to warrant sticking around.
The rest is history as Wilson overcame a rough first year in the Motor City and broke out more this year. Given his history in the Big Apple, there really is no reason that the Yankees shouldn't at least dip their toe in the water on him.
The Yankees' need for Wilson
Now, to be fair, Brian Cashman did just make a deal that significantly improved the Yankees' bullpen. In acquiring Todd Frazier from the Chicago White Sox, he also landed righties Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson to build a stronger bridge to closer Aroldis Chapman, not to mention take some pressure off of the streaky Dellin Betances.
But here's the kicker. Chapman is currently the only left-handed pitcher in the Yankee bullpen, thus complicating matters when facing lineups with powerful lefty bats. Chasen Shreve filled that role, but the acquisitions of Robertson and Kahnle made him expendable and he was thus sent back down to the minors.
Granted, Wilson is far from a left-handed one out guy, or LOOGY as has become the terminology, but the Yankees do still need another lefty in their bullpen regardless of how strong it is post-Frazier trade. Wilson can be used as everything from a LOOGY to a setup man to even a part-time closer, and his versatility will only help the Yankees in the race for the AL East.
This is where Cashman can, once again, showcase his incredible deal-making skills. He knows better than anyone that the fourth-place Tigers need to improve their minor league system above all else and aren't a piece away from a deep playoff run. Consider when he traded Chapman to the Chicago Cubs and lefty Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians last year. He knew that both teams really needed powerful relievers and used that to his advantage, ultimately landed two of baseball's top prospects in Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres.
This is not one of those times. Cashman could speak to Avila and, in very respectful and subtle terms, let him know that he is not really in a position to be demanding top prospects from the Yankees in exchange for a lefty reliever. It matters not that Wilson has a year of arbitration left, the Tigers just aren't close to being competitive this year and likely for the next few.
Thus, I propose that Cashman submit the following offer to the Tigers. Trade Shreve, Betances and maybe infield prospect Nick Solak in exchange for Wilson and, for the sake of argument, pitching prospect Jason Foley. The Yankees improve their bullpen even more, and Detroit gets a pitcher in Betances who can hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun and has two years of arbitration left. On top of that, Betances would finally get his wish and be a full-time closer.
Yes, the idea of parting ways with a righty who can be as dominant as Betances could be hard for a lot of Yankees fans to stomach, but the reality of the matter is that his walk totals are becoming a problem and there is no room for that on a team trying to contend. Thus, better to sell high on him and this deal, though a bit low in the prospect return, is one that the Yankees can easily justify.
It's all a matter of Cashman and Avila agreeing to it, so here's hoping they keep talking.