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How to Weave a Tank

If Jered Weaver is in the Padres rotation, the tanking strategy isn’t a secret to anyone.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

As you may have read, the Padres are rumored to have considered signing free agent Jered Weaver to compliment the titillating twosome of Clayton Richard and Jhoulys Chacin somewhere in the Padres rotation. Before you get all twitterpated, stop and take a breath. We should all know by now that AJ Preller will kick every tire in the lot and bark up every tree before making an offer. Naturally he’ll check in with a former quasi-ace looking for a rebound hook-up on the odd chance that something funny was in the Anaheim of Los Angeles water in hopes of finding another remodel worth flipping. That doesn’t mean that this rumor is going anywhere.

Yeah, there was a time when Jered Weaver earned himself some Cy Young votes. Three years, actually. But that was long ago, in a faraway land where Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum occasionally got all jiggy with it at the Country Bear Jamboree. Way back when in 2006, his fastball was right there with the league average... but that was a decade ago. Since then, the league has trended toward faster heat, while Mr. Weaver decided to try to buck that trend.

For the 2016 season, only R.A. Dickey had a slower average fastball velocity than Jered Weaver. Last time I checked, R.A. Dickey threw a knuckleball over 80% of the time, so a straight 82mph “heater” was an adequate change of pace in contrast to a 76mph fluttering, dipping knuckler... but even Dickey wasn’t all that effective last year. Weaver contrasts that “fast”ball with a changeup, a slider, and a curveball. Well, according to FanGraphs, he throws the changeup more often than the rest, but perhaps those are just fastballs that lost some zip. Well, Jamie Moyer made a career out of soft-tossing to weak outs, right? Remember when Greg Maddux held court at Petco with cunning and guile? Well, I watched Jamie Moyer and Greg Maddux. Mr. Weaver, you are neither Moyer nor Maddux. The point here is that Weaver relies on deception, movement, and location to get outs... but he hasn’t been very good at it for a few years.

Okay, so heat isn’t everything. He can stride halfway up the line and release the ball somewhere near the U in the “Western Metal Supply” building sign. That funky delivery let him hold right-handed batters to a .002 better batting average and saved him nearly twenty points of OBP against same-handed hitters. His fourth-best fly ball percentage will play nicely into Petco’s expansive outfield and epic Jankowski-Margot-Renfroe defense! What’s that? Petco isn’t an extreme pitcher’s park any more? Well, Janko can still go five rows deep to bring taters back, so there.

Alright, let’s assume that Preller’s really considering bringing this guy on board. What would that really mean for the team? Well, he’s been really good at one thing through most of his career: not getting hurt. He’s been taking the mound 24 times a season or more since Flo Rida first got low with some apple bottom jeans with them boots with the fur. There’s some value for that when a team is fielding a young roster chock full of kids who need to go through the slumps and adjustments that most young players endure. If the team isn’t going to compete in 2017, they might as well set themselves up for an entertaining season devoid of success in the wins column.

There’s another bonus for some of us fans here. Many of us played baseball when we were kids. Some of us think that at some point we may have been able to throw a ball close to 80mph. Through Jered Weaver, we can vicariously experience what it might have been like to get a chance to lob our best fastballs along with some funky junkballs to MLB hitters. The results might not be pretty, but we’ll get to experience the experiment up close and personal. Ooh, another thought: Harry the Heckler could catch some extra dingers, so he could get some bonus camera time, and that’s good for everyone. I only hope that Bob Brenly is around to call him a cheapskate again.

In all seriousness, what would this mean for the players currently on the roster if Weaver were signed today? Well, he’d join Jhoulys Chacin and Clayton Richard in the rotation as experienced starters on MLB contracts. The starting pitchers behind them on the 40-man roster are as follows, in no particular order: Christian Friedrich, Luis Perdomo, Jarred Cosart, Paul Clemens, Cesar Vargas, Colin Rea, Robbie Erlin, Zach Lee, and Walker Lockett. Erlin and Rea are recovering from Tommy John surgery. Rea is certainly out for the season, so he goes straight to the 60-day DL once that opens up, and Erlin will likely join him there since an optimistic return would be mid-season or later. Perdomo, Lee, Vargas, and Lockett all have at least one option year remaining, so they’ll likely go to El Paso, San Antonio, or Lake Elsinore. That leaves two rotation spots open for Friedrich, Cosart, and Clemens, who are all out of options. Cosart underwent a procedure last fall to remove loose bodies from his elbow, but that was a minor procedure from which a full recovery should be completed well before pitchers and catchers report to camp in Spring. While Friedrich and Clemens have at least some experience relieving at the MLB level, Cosart does not, so he should slot into the rotation, leaving the other two to either fight over the last slot or compel the team to experiment with a six-man rotation, which is kinda intriguing. Then again, there’s a chance that Richard goes to the bullpen as well. Your guess is as good as mine.

Will all of that really happen? Probably not. It’s clear that the team is looking for another veteran starter, but that could be any of Jake Peavy, Trevor Cahill, Travis Wood, Henderson Alvarez, Doug Fister, Edwin Jackson, Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon, or the corpse of Old Hoss Radbourn. Regardless of who if anyone is signed, there’s no guarantee that any of Friedrich, Cosart, and Clemens break camp with the team anyway. Friedrich was the most serviceable of the three but was shaky at best. Cosart shows talent but also shows flaws. Clemens has nasty breaking stuff but he might be a bit of a head case. Besides, if one of Perdomo, Vargas, Lee, or Lockett blazes his way through spring training, they might force the Padres’ hand to give them a shot to stick on the MLB roster and kick one of the others to the curb.

Look, this is Captain Preller’s ship and we’re all just along for the ride. He’s been remarkably unpredictable. The widely rumored moves often don’t happen, but then a move comes out of the blue that nobody expected but somehow makes a ton of sense. This offseason has been really quiet, but we all know that there will be some noise between now and April. Just don’t believe everything that you read.