Three and Out?
With a win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays yesterday, Jered Weaver is now 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA. Not a bad start, ehh? A nonpartisan observer might even go so far as to say that he has earned a spot in the Angels' starting rotation with his performance thus far. Well, that person might just be wrong. You see, Bartolo Colon is scheduled to start this Sunday after spending nearly two months on the DL. The 2005 Cy Young Award winner's return means one of the members of the current rotation needs to be traded, demoted to the bullpen, or sent down to the minors.
If you were Bill Stoneman or Mike Scioscia, what would you do? Let's take a look at the numbers. The names have been deleted to protect the
G IP H R ER HR BB SO W-L ERA WHIP H/9 BB/9 K/9 3 14.0 23 14 11 3 4 9 0-2 7.07 1.93 14.79 2.57 5.79 11 67.0 77 40 29 7 17 53 5-6 3.90 1.40 10.34 2.28 7.12 12 79.1 59 32 27 8 29 62 4-3 3.06 1.11 6.69 3.29 7.03 12 73.0 67 41 35 6 18 51 5-3 4.32 1.16 8.26 2.22 6.29 12 69.0 85 53 49 15 19 40 3-8 6.39 1.51 11.09 2.48 5.22 3 19.1 11 4 4 2 3 17 3-0 1.86 0.72 5.12 1.40 7.91
I'll let you in on a little secret. The pitchers were listed in alphabetical order--Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Jeff Weaver, and Jered. Remember now, which one would you NOT boot from the rotation? OK, that's what I thought. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't being biased here.
With a small sample size caveat, the younger Weaver is leading the six starters in ERA, WHIP, H/9, BB/9, and K/9. 5-for-5. A clean sweep. Whether Jered is the best starter or not might be debatable. However, what's clear is that he's not the worst starter.
I mean, why would you send Jered back to the minors at this point? Sure, he has options left. But is sending Weaver down what's best for him or the team? No way. Once a pitcher is major-league ready, it makes no sense to yank him back and forth like a yo-yo. Besides, if the name of the game is to win, who gives you a better chance at doing just that than the kid himself?
The team's future lies in the fate of Escobar, Lackey, Santana, and Weaver. Uhh, that's Jered, not Jeff. Escobar recently agreed to a three-year contract extension that secures his services through 2009. Lackey is signed through 2008 with a club option for 2009. Santana is making $350,000 and is under the control of the Angels for at least four more years. Jered is earning a prorated share of the MLB minimum salary of $327,000 in his rookie season.
Unfortunately, Colon's contract isn't tradeable unless, of course, the Angels are willing to eat a large chunk of it over the next 1 1/2 years. If the veteran RHP is healthy, he is an asset. If the big guy's not, well, he becomes a liability faster than you can say one year remaining at fourteen million dollars. The good news is that I don't think Arte Moreno needs to lie awake at night wondering if Bartolo's salary next year is going to jump to $15M with a top three finish in the 2006 Cy Young balloting.
One possible solution not being bandied about is to keep all six pitchers in the rotation. Giving Colon an extra day's rest may not be the worst thing in the world. Skipping Santana on the road from time to time is certainly justifiable given his career splits (9-3, 3.18 at home and 3-5, 7.44 away). Letting Jeff Weaver take an occasional turn could serve to increase his trade value should he return to form. Escobar, Santana, and the older Weaver could even be used in relief in between starts, strengthening a bullpen that tends to become too dependent on Scot Shields and Frankie Rodriguez for long stretches.
There are a lot of decisions that could be made here. Sending Jered back to Salt Lake at this time should not be one of them.