All in all, this past weekend was a great weekend to be an Angels fan. The Angels swept the Orioles to gain two games on the first-place Rangers. The team promoted catcher Hank Conger and vowed to take playing time away from the polite and well-meaning Jeff Mathis. And Sunday evening, word got out that the organization had agreed to a five-year contract extension with ace Jered Weaver, worth $85 million.
This was hardly a foreseeable announcement. Weaver and the Angels went to arbitration last winter, and for a while it seemed all but certain that Weaver would enter free agency after 2012. Scott Boras clients usually don't sign away their years like this. But here we are anyway, and now Angels fans get to envision a core of Weaver, Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Vernon Wells. There's a lot of talent there, and Vernon Wells. It's nice to have a core to envision.
From the Angels' perspective, this just looks like a hell of a deal, and there's little not to like. There's no questioning Weaver's desire to remain with the team. He was born in the area, he went to school in the area, he's in love with the area, and he signed this contract, despite the identity of his agent. Weaver is committed.
There's no questioning Weaver's ability. Since he debuted in 2006, he's posted the same ERA as Roy Oswalt and the same FIP as Cole Hamels. Since he kicked things up a notch last season, he's posted a similar ERA to Roy Halladay, and a similar FIP to Tim Lincecum. Weaver is an ace.
There's no questioning Weaver's health history. He's been on the disabled list once, in 2007, and though he missed the start of the year, he was back in the middle of April. He's made every start this season. He made every start last season. He made every start the season before that. Weaver is durable.
And there's no questioning the dollar value, here. Weaver's great, he's durable, he's loyal, and now he's under contract for five years at an average of $17 million per. I wouldn't call it a bargain, but it's hardly outlandish. As has been mentioned, it's a similar contract to those signed by Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander, and Weaver is a similar pitcher, in results if not style. Basically, it's a very sensible amount of money for a team that likes to spend money.
As far as I can tell, there's really only one cause for concern, here - one thing that stops this contract short of being amazing:
- Jered Weaver is a pitcher
That's it. It isn't interesting. It isn't original. But it is what it is, and pitchers aren't the most reliable assets in the long run.
For example, here's a list of pitchers currently on contracts with a similar average annual value to Weaver's:
- Justin Verlander
- Felix Hernandez
All of those pitchers were considered by at least one team at one time to be worth a ton of money. They don't grade out too well. As a general rule of thumb, long-term contracts for starting pitchers tend to involve a little misery. Sometimes pitchers get hurt. Sometimes pitchers completely break down. And sometimes pitchers just get worse.
Of course, if we dwell on this long enough, we might convince ourselves that it's never worth giving a pitcher a long-term contract. That's an uncomfortable extreme. Pitchers are all gambles, but Weaver at least seems a lesser risk than others. He's proven himself durable and effective, and he turns just 29 in October. On a hypothetical list of the pitchers most likely to be dependable down the road, Weaver would be somewhere near the top.
So the Angels and their fans shouldn't be too worried. They should just be aware. Weaver might become an issue in the future - maybe there's something to his 2011 strikeout drop, say - but for now, this is a good day. This is a great day. Jered Weaver is currently an awesome pitcher, and he's a currently awesome pitcher who's going to stick around for a long time.