Jered Weaver has been a punchline more so than an effective pitcher for a while now, going back to about the time his fastball velocity started jumping off a cliff:
Velocity’s not the end-all and be-all, of course, and Weaver has managed to keep pitching in the majors perhaps only by virtue of the fact that he throws five different pitches and isn’t too dependent on any one of them. (He still throws the fastball the most often, if something that maxes out at 84 mph can be called a fastball, but it makes up less than a third of his pitches.) Regardless, as his velocity has plummeted, so has nearly every measure of his effectiveness. Whatever your preferred metric—ERA, FIP, xFIP, DRA, strikeout rate, home run rate—it’s gotten worse over the past two years, and probably significantly so.
Yet despite all these troubling trends, as of yesterday, the 34-year-old Weaver has a home for next season. And it’s one that actually makes sense. Weaver has signed a one-year deal for $3 million with the San Diego Padres—just about the only team whose rotation could possibly be improved by his presence.
FanGraphs projects the Padres’ rotation to have a collective ERA of 4.37 and FIP of 4.47, worth about eight wins above replacement in total. (By comparison, Clayton Kershaw is projected to be worth 7.3 WAR next year all by himself.) These projections were enough, with good reason, for the site to wonder if the team’s rotation might be historically poor this year. While Weaver projects to be worse on his own than the Padres’ rotation does as a whole, he does offer something important: innings. For all his recent struggles, Weaver has never pitched fewer than 150 innings in any of his ten full seasons in the majors. The Padres’ starting pitchers are otherwise young, inexperienced, or saddled with exhaustive injury histories; the other four projected members of the rotation have hit that 150-inning mark just three times in their careers combined.
The Padres are, obviously, not going to be good. Jered Weaver is not going to be good. But in terms of the specificity of needs here—a team seeking a pitcher who is not productive but will consistently eat innings anyway, a pitcher seeking a team willing to take someone with a fastball that strains the definition of its name—this is one of the better matches of the offseason.