Two days after being acquired in exchange for the always-nebulous Player To Be Named Later, veteran reliever Dave Weathers will suit up tonight for his first game as a Brewer in over eight years. His previous stint with the team ended when he was traded with minor leaguer Robert Miniel to Chicago for Ruben Quevedo and Pete Zoccolillo. Since this is his twelfth stop among nine major league franchises, Weathers is no stranger to calling a new clubhouse home. His family, however, is not, as Weathers spent the last five seasons in Cincinnati.
On the field, Weathers has put together a good career. After struggling as a starter early on, he made the transition into relieving and hasn't looked back. He's filled every role in the bullpen, from long relief swingman to closer, and been serviceable in all of them. Relievers are generally unpredictable, but with Weathers, what you see is what you get. He will put up ERA's in the mid-3.00s while striking out around six per nine and walking four per nine. He'll give you seventy appearances and seventy innings pitched. He's not flashy, and he'll make it stressful at times, but he gets the job done. His reliability and durability have combined to place him eighteenth on the all-time list of games pitched, behind only Trevor Hoffman among active players.
So why was a veteran bullpen arm like David Weathers available for cheap?
First up is Weathers' current contract. It calls for him to be paid $3.9 million this year with a $3.7 million club option for next year. With one-third of this year remaining, the Brewers will pay about $1.3 million. If they decline the 2010 option, they're on the hook for $0.4 million more. So by getting rid of Weathers, the Reds save approximately $1.7 million while getting a chance to evaluate younger guys in Weathers' late innings role.
Don't take the easy way out and think money is the only factor at play here, however. The Reds could have easily held on to Weathers and kept their bullpen intact - there are worse ways to spend $1.7 million. One possible reason is his contract's club option for 2010. It means even if Weathers holds on to his projected Type B free agent status, his team won't get compensation for him signing elsewhere. The team would have to buy out his option to make him a free agent, meaning they can't offer arbitration to get the draft pick. So from that angle, the Reds not only save money by trading Weathers now, but they get something for him, too, even if it's a marginal minor leaguer or just cash. Obviously buying out his option at the end of the year provides nothing in return.
But why couldn't the Reds just exercise his option and trade him in the middle of next season? Obviously, the whole money thing, but what else? Let's assume he stays healthy (he's been durable so far) and he continues to pitch the way he has for the last five years. Potentially no one would be really interested in him before the deadline in 2010, much like this year. So maybe the Reds would wind up gaining nothing more than a PBTNL or cash next year as well. But could they even get that?
If Weathers stayed in Cincinnati through the end of the year, he would have spent five full years as a member of the Reds. Obviously he's been in the majors for more than ten full years. That means if the Reds brought him back in 2010, he would have special status as a "ten-and-five" player. Article XIX(A)(1) of the CBA covers those players:
(1) The contract of a Player with ten or more years of Major League service, the last five of which have been with one Club, shall not be assignable to another Major League Club without the Player’s written consent. No consent from a Player shall be considered effective until twenty-four hours from the Club’s request to the Player for such consent. At his sole election, however, a Player may, at the time he signs a multi-year contract with a Club, waive the right to prevent an assignment of his contract under this Section A(1), provided that the multi-year contract (a) is signed before the Player has attained ten or more years of Major League service, the last five of which have been with one Club, and (b) contains a no-trade provision that, at a minimum, limits the Club’s right to assign the Player’s contract, during each of its years, to no more than sixteen (16) Clubs designated or subsequently to be designated by the Player.
So even if the Reds wanted to trade Weathers in 2010, he could block it. Given the roots he's set down in Cincinnati, there's no reason to think he'd be eager to leave. Sure, a chance at the playoffs could do the trick, but I have a feeling the Reds wouldn't want to gamble on that.
To be sure, money is undoubtedly the major reason the Reds were willing to give David Weathers away for the proverbial bag of balls. But factor in the fact they had no chance at draft compensation after the year and the fact he could refuse any trade next year along with the typical concerns about age and health, and this was Cincinnati's last shot to get anything for him.