The shoulder has been bothering Wilkerson since the end of Spring Training. He had a cortisone shot right before the start of the season that got him through the first half and another at the All-Star break.
But he was never the player the Rangers thought they were getting from the Washington Nationals in an offseason trade for Alfonso Soriano. Wilkerson finished the season hitting .222 with 15 home runs, 44 RBIs and 116 strikeouts in just 320 at-bats.
"I think he's a much better player than our fans saw this year," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We just weren't seeing the results."
Wilkerson wanted to postpone the surgery until after the season, believing he could still help the team in the pennant race. But the Rangers acquired Stairs from the Kansas City Royals at the July 31 trade deadline and that reduced Wilkerson to being a bench player.
He tried to stay sharp by taking extra batting practice, but that only made the shoulder worse, so he decided to have the surgery.
"A lot of this has to do with getting ready for next season," Wilkerson said. "I'm in a situation where other guys came in and started to swing the bat well, and [the shoulder] wasn't getting any better."
Wilkerson had shoulder problems last year with the Nationals and the Rangers knew that when they made the trade. He was examined by Dr. Keith Meister, their team physician, before the trade was completed, and the Rangers knew it might be a risk.
"Obviously we passed him at the time and we were aware of the history," Daniels said.
Wilkerson, who is making $3.9 million this year, has one year of arbitration left and couldn't take more than a 20 percent pay cut under Collective Bargaining Agreement rules. That means the Rangers would have to pay him at least $3.12 million unless they decide to make him a free agent by not tendering him a contract in December.
"I haven't even gotten to that point," Daniels said. "The primary purpose of everybody being on the same page and going forward right now is getting him ready to play next year and getting him ready to play for the Rangers."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.