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Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson may be just what Cubs crave

C.J. Wilson

C.J. Wilson

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Updated: November 16, 2011 9:45AM

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The top projected free-agent pitcher this winter isn’t exactly ruling out the Cubs.

It’s just that he’s a little too busy to give it much thought as he tries to help pitch the Texas Rangers to another World Series — and perhaps raise his market value.

‘‘Obviously, it worked pretty well for Cliff [Lee] last year,’’ Rangers ace C.J. Wilson said of what a deep and productive postseason run can do for a free agent’s demand.

Wilson, the free-spirited lefty coming off back-to-back seasons of 15 or more wins, will start Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday against the winner of the Detroit Tigers-New York Yankees finale.

Because of the relatively thin market for starting pitchers, some analysts project Wilson as a $100  million free agent even before taking into account what he might do the rest of this month. Whether the cost-conscious Cubs ownership — already stung by the back ends of bad contracts — would have an appetite for a contract like that, the Cubs’ payroll promises plenty of flexibility for such a move, with up to $50 million coming off the books.

The Cubs also have a desperate need for starting pitching, and the next GM could be looking for a ­signature, impact move.

Of particular appeal with Wilson is the relative low mileage on his arm — just 708 regular-season ­innings for a guy who didn’t become a full-time starter until last year.

Wilson, 30, is constantly reminded of all of that by reporters, friends, family and Facebook acquaintances.

‘‘I’ve been asked about [free agency] at least once every day since the first day of spring training,’’ he said. “Seriously. . . .

‘‘I’m just trying to visualize hoisting the trophy this year.’’

What about visualizing wearing a Cubs uniform at Wrigley?

‘‘I’ve never even been there,’’ the Southern California native said.

When the time comes, the gun enthusiast and part-time car racer said he’ll evaluate the Cubs according to several criteria.

‘‘Gun laws, day games, weather, competitiveness, freedom to be myself,’’ he said with a straight face.

That’s, what, at least three strikes against the Cubs?

‘‘I’m just saying, that’s how I decide,’’’ Wilson said. ‘‘That’s the way my brain works.’’

When told the Cubs still have to hire a GM before they’ll be talking to him, he perked up.

‘‘I could be the GM,’’ he said. ‘‘I won my fantasy league three years in a row when I was in the minors.’’

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