The Los Angeles Angels shocked the baseball world this off-season when they traded for Vernon Wells and took on his massive contract. In making the move, the Angels agreed to take on an additional $86 million over the next four seasons. Not even a month later, the Angels are going to arbitration with Jered Weaver over a difference of $1.425 million. Given their willingness to expand their payroll with the acquisition of Wells, it seems silly that the Angels would go to war with their ace over such a small (in baseball terms) amount of money.
There are a number of reasons why this arbitration hearing never needed to take place between Weaver and the Angels. The Angels could have split the difference by offering Weaver $8.08 million, the difference between Weaver’s asking price of $8.8 and the Angels’ offer of $7.375. In this scenario, the Angels are only spending an additional $712.5 thousand to lock up their ace for another season. That seems like a pretty nice bargain for locking up a 28-year-old pitcher coming off the best season of his career.
Instead, the Angels will enter into a process that is often described as “ugly.” While Weaver’s side argues in favor of a raise, representatives from the Angels will point out every flaw in Weaver’s game over the past five seasons. When it’s described in that manner, it’s easy to see how some players could take the arbitration process personally.
Of course, it’s not all that clear what valid arguments the Angels could make during the hearing. Weaver is coming off his strongest season as a pro, in which nearly every one of his peripherals moved in the right direction. His strikeout rate increased from 7.42 to 9.35, while he lowered his walk rate, leading to a career high 5.9 WAR. But as Paul Swydan noted in his latest article, advanced statistics are rarely cited during the arbitration process.
Even if Weaver’s side cannot cite his xFIP, WAR or WPA, they still shouldn’t have a hard time making an argument for Weaver. Even by the most basic statistics, Weaver is coming off a tremendous season in which he led the major leagues in strikeouts. Consistency and effectiveness over a long period of time will play a huge role in the arbiter’s decision, and Weaver has been a model of both since he joined the Angels. Weaver has been a fixture of the Angels rotation from 2006-2010. Over that period, he has remained healthy while increasing his innings pitched and games started in each consecutive season. With that type of history, it’s tough to imagine the Angels winning this arbitration hearing.
That being the case, why the heck would the Angels drag one of their best players through an ugly process over $1.425 million? The acquisition of Wells shows that the Angels aren’t afraid to take on payroll, even though he’s overrated and overpaid. Weaver is a potential franchise player, entering the prime of his career, and the Angels decided they couldn’t shell out any more cash to lock up one of their best players. None of this makes sense from the Angels’ perspective. When the arbiters make their decision, expect Weaver to walk away with a slight pay raise and a slightly bruised ego. For the Angels, this is just another misstep in an off-season gone awry.