Reliever Brian Wilson will be returning to the Dodgers bullpen in 2014. (David J. Phillip / Associated…)
The Beard is coming back.
Free-agent right-hander Brian Wilson on Thursday signed a new deal with the Dodgers, a one-year, $10-million contract to return as closer Kenley Jansen's setup man.
Wilson was looking to return to a closer role, but the former All-Star, who makes his off-season home in Los Angeles, made an exception for the Dodgers, provided they pay him like a ninth-inning pitcher.
They are, and they also promised him the chance to become closer should Jansen falter or get injured, according to people familiar with their discussions who spoke under the condition of anonymity because the deal hasn't been announced.
Neither Wilson nor Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti could be reached for comment.
At the end of next season, Wilson will have the option to extend his contract by a year. The option could be worth anywhere from $8.5 million to $10 million, depending on how many games Wilson pitches in 2014.
Wilson can earn an additional $700,000 in incentives each year based on how many games he finishes.
The structure of the contract provides Wilson, 31, the opportunity to build up his value and re-enter the free-agent market next winter.
Wilson's career was in limbo about a year ago. He was recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery and wasn't tendered a contract by the San Francisco Giants, for whom he saved an average of more than 40 games from 2008-2011.
Wilson waited until July 30 to sign a one-year, $1-million deal with the Dodgers.
By mid-September, Wilson was setting up for Jansen. He continued to pitch the eighth inning for the Dodgers during the playoffs.
Wilson finished the regular season with a 0.66 earned-run average in 18 games, and he made six more scoreless appearances during the playoffs.
The team wasn't particularly concerned about Wilson's surgically repaired elbow. His fastball was clocked as high as 96 mph last season. Mindful that Jansen has made 140 appearances over the last two seasons, the Dodgers also consider Wilson insurance for the ninth inning.
Wilson was courted by the Detroit Tigers. After Wilson turned down their offer, which was said to be more lucrative than the Dodgers', the Tigers signed Joe Nathan to a two-year, $20-million contract.
Wilson fortifies the back end of a Dodgers bullpen that was depleted by free agency.
Left-hander J.P. Howell, another late-inning option last season, is testing the market. Right-hander Ronald Belisario was eligible for salary arbitration, but the Dodgers declined to tender him a contract. Belisario agreed to a one-year, $3-million deal with the Chicago White Sox, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Left-hander Paco Rodriguez remains under contract with the Dodgers. But Rodriguez pitched in 76 games last season and his ERA ballooned to 5.68 in September. He didn't make the roster for the National League Championship Series.
Right-hander Brandon League will also return. Last winter, he was signed to a three-year, $22.5-million deal to be the Dodgers' closer. But he lost his job and finished the season with a 5.30 ERA.
Hard-throwers Chris Withrow, Jose Dominguez and Onelki Garcia have limited major league experience. Left-hander Scott Elbert was signed to a nonguaranteed contract, but is expected to be sidelined for the first half of the season as he recovers from an elbow operation.