Friends, Padres fans, countrymen, lend me your ears!
I have come to bury Jered Weaver, not to praise him.
Because let's face it, Jered Weaver's given us very little to praise this year.
Weaver's signing with the Padres was, mildly, somewhat surprising. His lack of velocity on his pitches these past few years concerned many, but optimists could point to the success Padres great Randy Jones had with a fastball that often reached the plate with dust on it because it was moving so slow. At best, Padres fans hoped Weaver could experience a career renaissance in San Diego, giving GM AJ Preller a valuable trade chip to move for even more prospects at the trade deadline. At worst, the Long Beach State product seemed ready to offer veteran leadership, as well as throwing many, many innings for a club obviously sacrificing competitiveness this year for success in the years to come.
However, Weaver has so far failed to meet even those minimal expectations. Through 6 games, Weaver has only pitched 32.2 innings, barely 5+ innings a start. Worse, the veteran right-hander has also given up 12 home runs so far on the year, contributing to his 5.51 ERA and a -0.6 WAR while only striking out 4.41 per 9 innings. At this rate, Weaver is projected to make 34 starts this year, and eat just under 180 innings according to ESPN, while giving up 67 home runs.
Simply put, Jered Weaver has been bad, offering only the minimal expectation of "veteran leadership" to a club full of youngsters, while displaying no indication he's going to turn it around anytime soon. It's time the Padres admit this signing has not worked out as they had hoped, and cut ties with Weaver, sooner rather than later. The question this act leads to it: who takes Weaver's spot in the rotation? Despite the Padres full-on rebuilding efforts, the Padres have a few options available that pitching coach Darren Balsley might work some magic with.
Edit: Because I didn't state this in an earlier version, and several commenters pointed this out, I am deliberately leaving out Christian Friedrich and Jarred Cosart. Not only are they already on the 40-man roster, but they are also on the DL. I'm thinking more of who could be brought in quickly, and who could take Weaver's spot on the 40-man if he's cut loose.
While most of the Padres top-end pitching talent are still a long way from the MLB level, AAA - El Paso does have a few options the Padres could consider to replace Weaver:
1. Matt McGill. Righthander McGill has so far proven to be one of the most reliable starters for the Chihuahuas. A former Dodgers prospect, at 27 years of age, McGill has posted an impressive 1.55 ERA down in the hitter-friendly PCL this year, accumulating 29 innings over 5 starts. Perhaps most importantly, McGill has already recorded a respectable 20 strikeouts in that 29 innings of work. According to Baseball Prospectus, McGill reliably throws 4 pitches: Fourseam Fastball (94mph) and Curve (84mph), also mixing in a Cutter (88mph) and Sinker (94mph), while also rarely mixing in a Changeup (86 mph).
2. Dinelson Lamet. The Chihuahuas other reliable starter, righthander Lamet has been demonstrating improved effectiveness in his (technically) second stint at the AAA level. Like McGill, Lamet has started 5 games, racking up 25 innings of work with a 2.52 ERA to show for it. However, Lamet has also fanned 32 batters so far this year, 13 of which came in a single start on 21 April. Pretty impressive for a guy who Baseball Prospectus lists as reliably throwing 3 pitches: Fourseam Fastball (95 mph), Slider (not listed) and Change up (87 mph).
Unfortunately, these two are really the only two immediate options the Padres have internal to the organization at the moment. If the Padres wanted to look outside...
Waiting by the Phone:
1. Tim Lincecum. At 32 years of age, the former 2x Cy Young Winner still remains unsigned (not surprising, given his outings for the Angels in 2016). If San Diego wants to retain that veteran leadership that Weaver is supposedly offering, than Lincecum might fit the bill. However, his 9 starts last year with the Angels were, to put it mildly, atrocious. In all actuality, Weaver might be a more effective pitcher at this point...
2. Doug Fister. The 33 year old righthander also remains unsigned. Last pitching for the Astros in 2016, Fister posted a 4.64 ERA over 32 starts, recording 115 strikeouts in 180.1 innings of work. Reliably throwing a Sinker (88mph) while also mixing in a Curve (71mph), Slider (82mph), Splitter (80mph) and Cutter (85mph), Fister is nearing the tail end of his career. However, he might be able to give the team some reliable innings if they don't want to bring up someone from the minors, though he might get snapped up soon, if rumors are to be believed.
Of course, there are the more extreme options:
Reaching DEEP into the Farm.
Possibly the most dangerous option, the Padres could always reach deep into the minors and bring up one of the kids in AA or even Single A ball for a turn at the MLB level. Jake Esch at San Antonio (on the 40-man), Cal Quantrill and Eric Lauer at Lake Elsinore each could get a call-up if the Padres decided to see just what they had in the kids. Of course, doing so runs the very real risk of damaging the development of these prospects by bringing them to The Show before their skills are honed enough to not get their confidence destroyed. Bringing prospects up too early could also lead the Padres to think that their investment isn't going to pan out, and so should look for an additional prospects to replace them when in actuality they just need more time to develop and have faith in their skills.
No matter what option the Padres pick, it's time to end the Jered Weaver experiment. He's clearly done, and serves no other purpose than to absorb beatings from opposing teams. While Weaver does help ensure the tank is still on for 2017, it better serves the Padres' long-term goals of developing the franchise by cutting Weaver now, and giving the kids some light at the end of the tunnel with some potentially effective pitching. It will at least be better than putting Margot, Renfroe, and Blash/Jankowski/Spangenberg in the bleachers to catch all those bombs Weaver's giving up.
What say you? Should Weaver stay, or should he go? If he does go, who do the Padres bring up/in to replace him in the rotation?