Saturday, August 27, 2011

MLB Angels' Weaver Takes the Money While He Can

Jered Weaver, pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, signed a 5-year contract extension worth 85 million dollars this past week to continue his sojourn with the Angels.  The story of Weaver's signing was significant beyond just the typical inflated, humongous, ridiculous salary.  It's interesting because of why he signed now, instead of waiting until the end of his other contract in 2012, in order to test the free-agent market.

Weaver is a better than average journeyman pitcher.  His record in 6 seasons is 79 wins and 45 losses, pitching roughly 200 innings each year.

Weaver's agent is Scott Boras.  Boras is known as one of the toughest negotiators and fights hard to get his clients more than market value.  He always encourages his clients to take the option of waiting for the free-agency period to start negotiating with teams.

The advantage of free-agency negotiations is the opportunity to allow multiple teams to compete for the player's services.  Typically, the amount of money a player receives goes up during this time period because of the bidding process and teams trying to outbid each other.

When Weaver signed this past week, he was asked by the press why he was signing now, instead of waiting until the end of his other contract.  Weaver, from the Southern California area, gave an answer which will endear him to sports fans, "How much more do you need?," he said.  The press wrote the story and he was portrayed as a guy who cares more about loyalty, than a few extra millions.

But, is this accurate?  Is the press maybe missing the point?  How can they be so sure he was going to be offered more after the conclusion of next season?

Weaver and his agent may have been projecting ahead.  By the time his other contract would have ended, MLB owners would have had their Winter meetings and discussed some of the challenges their sport is facing.  Quite possibly, things will be going so bad for baseball by the end of the 2012 season, major restructuring will need to take place.  At the pace they're on now, there is no way baseball can keep making a profit with their ballooned salaries and less general interest in their game.

Soccer is on baseball's heels to replace it as America's Summer pasttime.  Baseball knows this and knows fundamental change will have to happen in its game.  This may include less games per season, less teams and a lot less big-money contracts to average and great ballplayers.

Jered Weaver was smart in his P/R move, helping himself to seem incredibly loyal to the franchise.  Also, it's good for baseball.  MLB needs players to stay in the same place for longer, to create more harmony, because part of the problems in baseball and sports in recent years is the amount of movement to different teams by players.  Weaver is one of the few ballplayers who's been in the league a while and can say he's been with the same team his whole career.

Weaver says he wants to be close to his home.  Also, he's right when he says, how much more does any person need past 85 million.  But, if he was truly loyal, wouldn't he ask for even less, so the Angels organization could go out and sign other big name guys?

Maybe it's all true and he is one of those rare athletes, who is loyal to his team.  He's happy in his situation and he is just being blunt about his feelings.

He looks great for sure, taking less money to stay with the only team he's ever known, but he's even smarter than he looks, because by the time baseball's finances are reviewed for next season and beyond, all players may be playing for less than they thought.  Boras knows something is up and probably told his client to take the money while he can.

The U.S. sports spectating landscape is changing drastically.  Though subtle at times, there are indications daily.

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