ANAHEIM, Calif. – Wearing black sunglasses, his hair pushed back and his chin carrying a week-long hit of fur, Jered Weaver(notes) sat on a stage outside Angel Stadium as fans two deep chanted his name during a press conference al fresco.
He'd signed up for another five years on Gene Autry Way for another $85 million, about which he'd say, "If 85's not enough to take care of my family and generations to come then I'm pretty stupid."
On the occasion of his great grandchildren's trust fund, however, Weaver found himself defending the contract, the organization, his agent and a decision – according to sources – reached against a Saturday night deadline set by the club.
Weaver's choice was to accept the deal or have it withdrawn until the offseason, when the Angels would measure his demands against the likelihood he'd be lost to free agency after 2012 anyway, implying he could be traded.
Bluffed or not, he was forced to at least consider a premature departure from the Angels, which ultimately he wouldn't chance. Weaver took the $85 mil, happily as it turned out, because by Tuesday afternoon he choked back tears of gratitude as his mother, father and fiancée watched from the gallery.
"It's been a long road," he said, staring at his parents. "Very excited. So, love you all."
The place swooned, and the folks standing along the perimeter against the plastic chains applauded. Weaver, the ace of one of the game's premier rotations, had sold his final year of arbitration and four years of free agency for, yes, a ton of money, but also for the comfort of pitching 70 miles from his childhood backyard. Dave and Gail Weaver are regulars behind home plate. Jered is an uncle, too, now watching brother Jeff raise a child.
For that – a place in Newport Beach, a life of nearby shore breaks and sunsets, familiarity but an hour drive away – Weaver had spent maybe $40 million, and maybe more. And had he waited for free agency and continued on his career arc, at a time when the richest franchises (New York, Boston) are shy starting pitchers, a CC Sabathia(notes)-shaped contract – seven years, $161 million – was not out of the question.
Those are not the kinds of contracts the Angels consider, not even for one of their own.
So, Weaver could accept the terms at a deadline Angels general manager Tony Reagins said was necessary because, "We didn't want this to be a distraction. If it was going to get done it was going to get done in a timely manner."
Or, he could potentially leave his life at the mercy of the next interested party, traded who knows where, only a decade after Jeff had begun a slog from Detroit to New York to Los Angeles to Orange County to St. Louis to Seattle and back to Los Angeles. And then have agent Scott Boras lead him into free agency.
Of course Weaver's new contract is team friendly. His father, Dave, called it a "home-team discount." (Angels manager Mike Scioscia disputed that, saying, "I don't know if there's anything discounted about it.") And maybe Weaver will come to regret it, if the wins keep coming and the ERA stays miniscule and pitchers without his credentials are getting the contract he might have held out for, even deserved.
But, I doubt it.
He'd kicked back a few dollars for peace of mind, for a chance to hang around a while and live in the house he bought and then trust in the future of the Angels.
"Eventually," he said, "there comes a point where you have to make a decision. I couldn't see myself anywhere else but here. … It's good to know I'm going to be here."
Asked about what all that loyalty might have cost, Weaver grinned his surfer-boy grin and said, "How much more do you possibly need?
"I coulda got more, whatever. Who cares? I'm here and that's all I really care about."
He wants a ring with a halo on it, he said, "Or two. Or three."
The crowd that had gathered for the curiosity of a public press conference enjoyed that very much.
It has been a while, after all, almost a decade of near misses and not closes since the last. But, in this lanky right-hander, and from his spider-y delivery, and in this very gesture, there was, perhaps, progress. For going on a year, there'd been hope for Carl Crawford(notes), then Adrian Beltre(notes), maybe something at the trading deadline. Instead, they'd gotten Vernon Wells(notes) and stand pat and a steady place behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West.
And as everyone stood to go, a single voice arose from the fans who'd come to see Weaver and celebrate the next five years.
"How about some run support, Reagins?"