Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weaver's Arbitration Hearing Continues Angels' Weird Off Season

After spending a gazillion dollars to acquire Vernon Wells from the Blue Jays, the Angels quibbled with Jered Weaver, their best player, for a million and a half dollars. In a rarity for a Scott Boras client, a pre-hearing deal with Weaver did not come together and his case went to the arbiter. Weaver lost the case meaning he'll make $7.365 million in 2011. Weaver submitted $8.8 million. You would think a $1.1 million difference could have been overcome.

Having the case go all the way to a hearing leads to several questions:

1. Are relations between the Angels and Boras that bad that the two sides can't even settle a case as close as this one?

2. How will Weaver respond to this hearing and how much will it reduce the likelihood that Weaver will stay with the Angels long term?

3. How can the Angels be so spend-thrifty on one hand and so niggling on the other?

Of course, the Fan likes to ask questions more than answer them. But we have heard all along that the Angels and Scott Boras are not on each other's Christmas card list and we can point to several Boras clients on the market this off season that were linked to the Angels' wish list. None of those players were signed by the Angels.

Which also leads to speculating about the second question. If the Angels and Boras are already in cold water, how will that impact the negotiations with Weaver once the pitcher reaches free agency? And will Weaver give the Angels a "hometown" discount now that his case had to go to a hearing over a measly one and a half million dollars? The Fan would think that the chances of the Angels signing Weaver long-term just took a giant hit and with Boras as his agent, the odds were long to begin with.

And why is this important? As we have certainly seen this off season, starting pitching is at its highest premium. Every team covets those assets and were willing to suspend logic and reason to land someone like Cliff Lee for way too much money spread out over way too many years. And Jered Weaver is arguably as good or better than Cliff Lee (a fact that would surprise quite a few folks).  Weaver led the Angels in WAR this year at 5.4 (bWAR) and has done so two of the last five years. He had a masterful 2010 season despite his 13-12 final record.

And Weaver is one of those guys who is going to give you 34 starts and 220 innings every season. In 2010, he struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings while only walking 2.2. His WHIP was a minuscule 1.074. The only thing he didn't do well in 2010 was find a way to win more ball games. Santana had an ERA of 3.89 compared to Weaver's at 3.01 and went 17-10. Sometimes things just work out that way. Weaver came in fifth in Cy Young voting and could easily have finished second.

So here we have one of the best pitchers in the American League going into his season before free agency. His team had a chance to lock him up for a while and failed. If the Angels saw the writing on the wall, they should know that Boras will have his client on the market for open bidding, a situation certain for the Angels to lose. That said, the other thing this situation creates is the need for the Angels to deeply consider trading Weaver if they fail to get off to a good start and fall out of contention early.

The Angels seem more puzzling every day...

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