Nabbing a top free agent pitcher before the trade deadline or in the offseason can instantly make a middle-of-the-pack baseball team into a legitimate playoff contender or transform a contender into a World Series favorite.
The Philadelphia Phillies snatched up Cliff Lee, then Roy Halladay, then Lee once more. The result? One World Series appearance, a defeat to eventual champions San Francisco in last fall’s NL Championship Series and the most feared rotation in the majors heading into the 2011 postseason.
On Monday the Los Angeles Angels made sure their ace wouldn’t be the next in a long line of elite pitchers to cash in with major free agent contracts on teams looking to bolster their playoff hopes. The Angels signed right-hander Jered Weaver — the AL starter in July’s All-Star Game — to a five-year deal worth $85 million.
Weaver likely could have generated a bigger pay day by drawing things out a little longer — he was scheduled to hit free agency after the 2012 season — but he’s playing in his hometown and in a ballpark that seems perfectly suited to his skills.
Currently in the midst of a career year that would make him a shoe-in for the AL Cy Young were it not for Justin Verlander’s freakish numbers, Weaver is sporting career bests in ERA (2.10), batting average against (.207) and WHIP (0.97) and is just two wins shy of his season high win total of 16.
On the surface it’s a win-win deal for both parties — Weaver also reportedly received a full no-trade clause. Now, if the Angels could just find a way to catch the Texas Rangers in the AL West race so Weaver could prove his worth in the postseason....