The Los Angeles Angels officially signed Jered Weaver to his five-year, $85 million contract on Monday, keeping Weaver in Anaheim until at least the 2016 season. Unlike the team's last big financial splash, the acquisition of a certain left fielder who shall go unnamed, Weaver's extension practically guarantees that the Angels will keep one of the biggest stars in team history for most of his career. Prior to the 2010 season, Weaver had actually been considered a minor disappointment, a mere solid No. 2 starter rather than the Cy Young candidate he appeared to be after bursting onto the scene by going 11-2 with a 2.10 ERA in 2006.
In 2010, Weaver had a breakout year, with a 13-12 record that almost seemed a crime in light of his 3.01 ERA and league-leading 233 strikeouts. While his strikeout rate returned to his more typical levels this season, he's cut another third off his already low home run rate and has allowed only 12 dingers in 195⅓ innings. At 15-6, and tops in the AL with a 2.03 ERA, he's a deserving Cy Young candidate. While his HR rate will likely go back up, given that Weaver is an extreme fly ball pitcher, it'll take more than a few more homers a year to drop Weaver back out of ace status. For one, he's developed into a real pitcher, who changes speeds as well as anyone in baseball. By FanGraphs' numbers, Weaver has the third most valuable fastball in baseball. The next most effective fastball that averages below 90 mph is Doug Fister's, back in 20th.
At $17 million a year for five years, Weaver certainly left some money on the table compared to what he could have gotten as a free agent after the 2012 season. However, there are very good reasons for Weaver to make this decision. Taking the money now protects Weaver from risk -- pitchers tend to be as fragile as an antique vase in a room full of cats -- or possible loss of effectiveness. It gives Weaver the opportunity to concentrate on getting batters out instead of on a possibly unpleasant contract negotiation with his team.
The real question is: Just how much did Weaver leave on the table? And how does this affect other star pitchers, such as Cole Hamels and Matt Cain, who are set to be free agents after the 2012 season?