SAN FRANCISCO — Brian Wilson and his overgrown black beard might be headed out of the Bay Area.
The San Francisco Giants declined to tender a one-year contract to the closer by Friday night's deadline, making him a free agent as he recovers from a second ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow.
Wilson was the 2010 major league saves leader with 48, but made only two appearances for the World Series champions this year after experiencing elbow trouble in April. He underwent reconstructive Tommy John surgery April 19, his second such procedure on his pitching elbow after also having it done while in college at LSU in 2003. Dr. James Andrews performed both operations. Wilson missed the team's run to its second championship in three years.
The 30-year-old Wilson, who earned $8.5 million during his injury-shortened 2012 season, would be due to make at least $6.8 million next year under the rule limiting pay cuts to a maximum of 20 percent. By letting him go free, the Giants can sign him for a lower price, though the pitcher has apparently already hinted he will look for work elsewhere.
Bobby Evans, the team's vice president of baseball operations, said the Giants had declined to offer Wilson a contract — a move that was hardly unexpected given the uncertainty surrounding when the right-hander might be ready.
In addition, San Francisco saw during the club's latest postseason run that Sergio Romo was a reliable ninth-inning option in Wilson's place.
"I like our choices, including him being one, as we start the regular season," general manager Brian Sabean.
When asked whether Romo showed enough during his impressive playoff run to be the regular closer, Sabean said: "That's tough to answer because of the off days."
Wilson has spent all seven of his major league seasons with San Francisco after the Giants selected him in the 24th round of the 2003 draft. He got the final out in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series at Texas to clinch the franchise's first championship since moving West in 1958.
Wilson finished 6-4 with a 3.11 ERA and 36 saves in 57 appearances in 2011, but was held out down the stretch as a precaution. He had taken all the important steps in his rehab during spring training this year, so the injury caught everybody by surprise.
Messages left for Wilson and his agent went unreturned.