The curious case of the Los Angeles Angels

February, 9, 2011
2/09/11
1:55
PM ET
The Angels and Jered Weaver are headed to arbitration on Wednesday; the ace has requested a salary of $8.8 million while the team is countering with $7.375 million.

For those bad at math, the difference between the two salaries is a mere $1.425 million, with $8.09 million as the midpoint between the two salaries. It's a pretty small gap that shouldn't have been very difficult to bridge.

[+] EnlargeJered Weaver
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesAfter shelling out $86 million for Vernon Wells, the Angels are now in arbitration with ace Jered Weaver.
Except the whole arbitration hearing being scheduled for Wednesday clearly indicates the two sides can't come to an accord, which is rather baffling. The Angels just shelled out $86 million (or $81 million, depending on what you believe) for the rights to slot a declining Vernon Wells in left field over the next four seasons.

But the Angels can't bridge a gap that essentially amounts to $1 million for their ace? A guy, you know, you might want to keep happy?

You'll have to forgive me for pointing the finger at the Angels. The culprit in all this could very well be Weaver, who could be holding out for the $8.8 million and refusing to settle. But after the curious offseason the Angels have had, it wouldn't come as a surprise if L.A. was suddenly crying that they don't even have two pennies to rub together.

Wells' trade has been exhausted at this point, so no need to recap it. It may have improved the team on the baseball side of things -- even that is in doubt -- but it destroyed their financial ledger. The Angels will top $130 million in payroll this season and already have $75 million on the books for 2012.

Then you have the bizarre rantings of owner Arte Moreno, who excoriated the Red Sox for the cash outlay given to Carl Crawford. Never mind that the Angels were poised to offer a similar amount and that Crawford was as perfect a fit for the team. Instead, he acted shocked at the sticker value for Crawford and ran into Toronto's open arms, taking Wells for the same age that apparently bothered L.A. about Crawford.

After losing Crawford, L.A. licked its wounds by handing Scott Downs a three-year, $15 million contract. This after giving fellow lefty reliever Hisanori Takahashi two years for $8 million. Yes, relief pitchers were vastly overpriced on the market, but the Angels didn't need to go commit those kind of dollars to middle relievers. (And all the more oddly enough, GM Tony Reagins appeared to be serious when he characterized the signing of Takahashi as a splash.)

After shelling out $23 million for two middle relievers and losing out on Crawford, what did the Angels do before striking for Wells? Sat on their hands while Adrian Beltre went to a division rival. They again chose to lowball a player that made too much sense for the Angels, who had a wide-open spot at third waiting for Beltre. But hey, Alberto Callaspo.

In the Reagins regime, the Angels seem to have made one misstep after another. In the process, everything the Angels have stood for in previous years have been wiped out. The team is increasingly getting older, lacking playmakers and playing station-to-station baseball.

Earlier this offseason, someone said that it felt the Angels were negotiating as if they were the only team in baseball. This has stuck with me all offseason as it rings all too true.

And so that brings us back to Weaver and arbitration. Like I said, this could all be Weaver's doing, but it would not surprise me to learn that the Angels were negotiating as if the player and arbitration hearing didn't matter.

Evan Brunell runs the SweetSpot Red Sox blog at Fire Brand of the American League.

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