The Dodgers starting rotation next season is going to look a tad different. Derek Lowe has left for greener pastures in Atlanta, Brad Penny is expected to amalgamate with John Smoltz to provide a decent pitcher in Boston, and Greg Maddux‘s retirement disables him from being acquired late in the season for a third time. Returning will be incumbent ace Chad Billingsley, the productive but somewhat inconsistent Hiroki Kuroda, and the youngster Clayton Kershaw.
Randy Wolf signed a 1-yr/$5 mil deal to man the fourth spot in the rotation earlier this week, meaning the fifth spot is up for grabs between a good number of candidates. Competing for that fifth spot will be, at the very least, Jason Schmidt, Shawn Estes, Eric Stults, and Claudio Vargas. Ramon Troncoso may also figure into the mix. One recently signed pitcher who will not compete for the fifth spot in Spring Training is Jeff Weaver.
Weaver inked a $500,000 minor league deal this week with an invitation to Spring Training. He plans on competing for a bullpen spot. In 2004 and 2005, while with the Dodgers, Weaver posted seasons of +3.5 and +2.0 wins, logging 220+ innings each season. He signed with the Angels in 2006 and proceeded to put up a 5.23 FIP in 16 starts, before finding himself donning a Cardinals uniform.
On the surface, it appears that he performed better in St. Louis, with an ERA over one point lower, but it was largely smoke. His FIP actually rose to 5.71 in the 15 subsequent starts with the Cardinals. Weaver pitched well in the 2006 playoffs, though, en route to a World Series win, and coaxed a contract from the Mariners the following season. As Dave Cameron noted in the 2007 The Hardball Times Annual, Weaver’s season was incredibly interesting to follow. At times he looked unstoppable, but in between those games were spurts, sometimes extended, of awful performance.
Overall, Weaver made 27 starts with a 5.07 FIP and 6.20 ERA in 2007. He bounced around the farm systems of both the Indians and Brewers last season, but his numbers failed to improve. Putting up a 5.18+ FIP in the minor leagues is not going to impress anyone, especially when you are no longer a 22-yr old prospect still looking to harness raw abilities.
If Weaver can have a solid Spring Training he may be a good bet to replace Chan Ho Park as an extended righty out of the pen with the potential to make starts when needed. Either way, this is a low-risk move for the Dodgers if there ever was one: if he makes the team, then he had to have shown them some semblance of remaining ability, making his ~league minimum $500k salary worth the cost.
If he has completely lost everything, he won’t make the team or earn any money. I cannot pinpoint why but I am personally pulling for him to make the club and produce at the major league level again. Regardless, this is likely his last chance to salvage what was once a very promising career.
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