NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Tigers came to baseball's Winter Meetings with veteran names in play for trades. Justin Wilson wasn't expected to join them. But with a day and a half to go before teams return home for the holidays, the lefty reliever might be the most attractive Detroit pitcher on the market.
While Wilson has generated buzz around the lobby of the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, maybe more than outfielder J.D. Martinez, Tigers general manager Al Avila said Wilson has drawn the highest level of interest among their non-closing relievers.
That doesn't necessarily mean Wilson is on the move, especially since Detroit isn't deep in lefty relief. But if the Tigers are going to swing a deal here that saves a little bit of money and fills some needs, Wilson is an option.
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The Tigers acquired the 29-year-old Wilson at last year's Winter Meetings, prying him from the Yankees for pitching prospects Luis Cessa and Chad Green. What followed was an up-and-down season that saw Wilson go from lefty setup to primary eighth-inning reliever to situational reliever.
"I thought he was great," Avila said.
The final numbers included a 4-5 record and 4.14 ERA, along with 65 strikeouts over 58 2/3 innings. However, Wilson posted reverse splits, allowing a .308 average (28-for-91) to left-handed hitters compared with .234 to righties. He put up one save and 25 holds in 30 chances.
"I thought he was unlucky," manager Brad Ausmus said.
Wilson is eligible for arbitration for a second time. MLB Trade Rumors has projected him to make $2.7 million in 2017. By comparison, free-agent lefty Brett Cecil just signed a four-year, $30.5 million contract to join the Cardinals.
Other Tigers setup relievers have drawn interest, including Shane Greene, but most are under control at relatively little cost. Alex Wilson is eligible for arbitration for the first time. Moreover, almost all of them are right-handed.
The Tigers don't have many lefty options if Wilson is dealt. Kyle Ryan and Blaine Hardy are the only other lefty relievers currently on the roster. However, if the Tigers can fill other needs with the return package, such as center field or prospect depth, they might have a decision to make.
It wouldn't be glamorous, but the way the Winter Meetings are going, it doesn't sound like glamour is on the table.
"There's still possibilities of some trades," Avila said, "maybe not as dramatic as you may imagine, but some things that could help us."