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Weaver's extension a good deal for Angels

8/21/2011

Word leaked out Sunday night that the Angels will announce the signing of Jered Weaver to a five-year, $85 million contract extension on Tuesday.

WeaverWeaverWeaver is eligible for free agency after the 2012, and as a Scott Boras client, it certainly comes as a surprise that Weaver would elect to sign now rather than turn down the free market. But Weaver is a Southern California kid who attended Simi Valley High School in Ventura County and then Long Beach State. He's the signature player on a franchise that's had just one losing season since 2003. Why leave for new pastures when they're already pretty green where you're at?

While I'm usually skeptical of the long-term value of big contracts given to pitchers, this one looks fairly low-risk for the Angels. Weaver has been on the disabled list just once in his career, at the start of the 2007 season after suffering biceps tendinitis in spring training. He missed one start in 2008 after cutting his fingers on a dugout bench.

As for the $17 million, it also seems like a pretty good deal when evaluating Weaver's 2010 and 2011 seasons (2.60 ERA, 391/96 strikeout/walk ratio). Consider the current five highest-paid pitchers per average annual value of their contracts: Cliff Lee ($24 million, 2011-2015); CC Sabathia ($23 million, 2009-2015); Johan Santana ($22.9 million, 2008-2013); Roy Halladay ($20 million, 2011-2013); Carlos Zambrano ($18.3 million, 2008-2012). Weaver's deal is also comparable to the one Justin Verlander signed with the Tigers ($16 million per season, 2010-2014) and Felix Hernandez's deal with the Mariners ($15.6 million, 2010-2014). Like Weaver, those are two durable right-handers signed to extensions before they become eligible for free agency.

The other big question: Exactly how good is Weaver? He took his game to a higher level in 2010, increasing his strikeout rate from a 7.3 per nine career rate to 9.3 and lowering his walk rate. His strikeout rate has fallen back toward his career norm this season, but he's lowered his to an AL-leading 2.10 thanks to a .202 opponents average that has been helped by a career-low .250 average on balls in play (thank you, Peter Bourjos).

Weaver may never have another season as good as 2011, but he doesn't have to for this to be good deal for the Angels. If he stays healthy he should remain one of the better pitchers in the American League, keeping his ERA around 3.00 to 3.50 and helping the Angels win a lot of ballgames.