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2011 MLB Free Agency: Rangers C.J. Wilson Is Premier Pitcher On The Market

Wilson's struggles in October are unlikely to affect his market value in a thin pool of free-agent pitchers.

At 12:01 PM EST on Thursday, C.J. Wilson, one of the most polarizing free agents in Texas Rangers history, will hit the open market. 

The 30-year old left-hander has played seven seasons for the Rangers, the last two as a front-line starter. After the departure of Cliff Lee in free agency last off-season, Wilson took over as the team's ace, with a 16-7 record on a 2.93 ERA in 223.1 innings of work.

However, the outspoken pitcher has struggled mightily in the post-season. This October, he went 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA in 28 innings, and didn't make a single quality start.

But his sterling regular-season performance in the notoriously hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington, as well as the dearth of quality starting pitchers available this off-season, has raised interest in Wilson throughout the MLB. He's already been linked to 12 different teams, including the Rangers, Yankees and Angels.

With CC Sabathia signing an extension with New York, the only pitcher on the market comparable to Wilson is Yu Darvish, a 25-year old Japanese pitcher that Texas is reportedly very high on. Behind them are the notoriously inconsistent Edwin Jackson, as well as two guys in their mid-30's, Roy Oswalt and Mark Buehrle

As a result, many observers around baseball believe the starting point for Wilson will be the five-year $82.5 million contracts signed by John Lackey and A.J. Burnett in recent years.

However, according to Sports Illustrated's John Heyman, the Rangers have little interest in giving Wilson a contract that size, which is why Heyman thinks that "[Wilson] is a goner from Texas, almost for sure."

For his part, Wilson has been more optimistic about his chances of staying in Arlington, saying that "I like it here and I've won here. I've proved that I can be a good pitcher here."

But the bidding for free agent starting pitchers rarely goes according to schedule, as Rangers fans found out last year when Cliff Lee stunned many throughout the industry by forgoing more money from Texas and New York to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies instead.

For the latest hot-stove news and analysis on the Texas Rangers, be sure to check out Lone Star Ball.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.