Putting Jered Weaver's arbitration 'loss' in perspective
Jered Weaver's arbitration loss to the Angels on Thursday, a ruling that dictates the ace will receive a salary of $7.365 million this season instead of the $8.8 million requested by his agent, Scott Boras, shows just how arbitrary the arbitration process can be.
How, fans wonder, can a 28-year-old right-hander who went 13-12 with a 3.01 earned-run average and a major-league-leading 233 strikeouts last season lose in arbitration, when only a day before, Pittsburgh pitcher Ross Ohlendorf, who went 1-11 last season, won his arbitration case against the Pirates?
And how could one of the weakest hitters in baseball, catcher Jeff Mathis, beat the the Angels in arbitration last spring, winning a salary of $1.3 million instead of the $700,000 the Angels offered?
There are no definitive answers -- baseball does not make its arbitrators available for comment -- but to better understand Weaver's case, one really can't look at it as a "loss."
Weaver, in his second year of arbitration eligibility, still got a hefty raise from the $4.265 million he made in 2010; the three-person arbitration panel just didn't think he deserved a raise that would have more than doubled his salary.
Both Ohlendorf and Mathis were in their first year of arbitration eligibility, where the salary figures are much lower. And in Ohlendorf's case, he had a 4.07 ERA in 21 starts last season, which carried a lot of weight for arbitrators who determined he was worth the $2.02 million he asked for instead of the $1.4 million the Pirates offered.
The bigger issue for the Angels is whether the arbitration process left Weaver with any feelings of animosity toward the team.
Players and teams must provide evidence to support the salary figures they submit, which forces teams to essentially disparage even their best players. Arbitration hearings can be contentious, and many players come away from the process with hurt feelings, which can linger for months, even years.
That is why teams go to great lengths to avoid arbitration with their best players, like the Texas Rangers did when they agreed to terms with outfielder Josh Hamilton on a two-year, $24-million deal on Thursday.
Weaver, who emerged as the team's ace last season, will be eligible for free agency after the 2012 season, and the danger for the Angels is that this week's arbitration process could weaken Weaver's loyalty to the team and contribute to his departure after 2012.
Asked Thursday whether the hearing would hinder the Angels' chances of retaining Weaver beyond 2012, General Manager Tony Reagins said, "That depends on the player."
The Angels tried to secure Weaver to a long-term deal but did not make enough progress in negotiations to prevent Wednesday's arbitration hearing. Reagins would not say whether the Angels were still in talks with Weaver's agent for such a deal.
-- Mike DiGiovanna
Photo: Jered Weaver. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times.