Indians Sign Reliever Wilson to Minor League Deal with Spring Invite
Bob Toth | On 09, Feb 2019
After bringing back free agent reliever Oliver Perez with what remains the Cleveland Indians’ biggest offseason signing to date, the front office indicated that the team would be shifting its focus to minor signings to fortify the roster.
The team has been busy in the final days ahead of the reporting date to spring training, and that remained true late Friday night as the club came to an agreement with right-handed reliever Alex Wilson on a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.
The Indians have not formally announced the acquisition at the time of this story, but Wilson shared the word himself early Saturday morning in a tweet on his official Twitter page. According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, Wilson’s contract is a minor league deal, but he will get $1.25 million if he lands a spot on the Major League roster and that the deal includes another $750,000 in bonuses.
Wilson made $1.925 million last season in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He was non-tendered by Detroit following the season as the club already had Shane Greene and All-Star Joe Jimenez in the back end of the bullpen and a glut of relief prospects needing opportunities. The Tigers reportedly tried to move Wilson at the trade deadline a year ago.
Wilson joins the Indians organization with a great opportunity to land a bullpen spot on manager Terry Francona’s pitching staff. The 32-year-old (and one of just two Saudi Arabian born players in MLB history) has spent the last four years pitching in Detroit, serving as a reliable late inning reliever for the Tigers. Last year, he was 2-4 on the mound with 14 holds, a 3.36 ERA, and a strong 1.05 WHIP.
Wilson has averaged more than 61 appearances a season over his time in Detroit, one which ended when he was non-tendered in November. He left the Motor City with a mark of 11-12 with a 3.20 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP, four saves, and 52 holds in 246 games. He earned as many as 17 holds in 2017 and saved a pair of games in both 2015 and 2017. He burst onto the scene as a reliable reliever for the Tigers in his first season with the club in 2015, when he posted a 2.19 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP in 59 outings.
Prior to joining the Tigers, Wilson was a second round pick by Boston in 2009. He reached the Majors with the Red Sox in 2013, coming on in relief in 26 games. He made 18 appearances in 2014, posting a 1.91 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP in that span. In December of 2014, he was traded by the Red Sox with Yoenis Cespedes and Gabe Speier for Rick Porcello.
Wilson throws a mix of pitches, including a four-seamer, a cutter, a sinker, a slider, and a seldom-used changeup. His fastball sits in the low 90s. His struggles in 2017, when he posted a 4.50 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP, were thought to be due to not having a reliable third pitch to count on.
Wilson joins a crowded mix of bullpen candidates behind closer Brad Hand. The Indians return right-handers Adam Cimber, Nick Goody, Dan Otero, and Neil Ramirez and left-handers Tyler Olson and Oliver Perez to the staff, along with late season call-up Jon Edwards and 40-man member Ben Taylor. In the offseason, the club has added Chih-Wei Hu, Jefry Rodriguez, Nick Wittgren in trades. Justin Grimm, James Hoyt, and Brooks Pounders have all been signed by the club on minor league deals with non-roster invites, and both Cody Anderson and Danny Salazar, who missed all of 2018 with injuries, could also be in play for bullpen roles.
The addition of Wilson follows several other minor league signings this week by the Indians organization. On Friday, the club added outfielder Matt Joyce, who spent the last two years in Oakland. Thursday, the team announced the signings of utility man Ryan Flaherty and catcher Dioner Navarro.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images