2019 STATS: 4-3, 12 GS, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 1.7 bWAR, 1.8 fWAR
2019 SALARY: $581,300
2020 STATUS: Pre-Arb
Luke Weaver began his career as the return for one of the most beloved Diamondbacks of all time, Paul Goldschmidt. Given that most reactions to his arrival were colored by Goldschmidt’s departure, the general consensus as to his value as a baseball player wasn’t very optimistic. Even the more neutral analyses did not look upon him favorably. Our own James Attwood in his article announcing the trade called him “a back-of-the-rotation starter who struggled in 2018,” which was entirely fair, given his 78 ERA+ from the season before. Past performance and circumstances out of his control equated out to an uphill climb to turn around public opinion of him.
Despite the misgivings of many in the community, Luke Weaver quickly proved to be an important member of the starting rotation. He had a rough debut, giving up five runs in 4.1 innings to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but settled down after that, not giving up more than three runs again until his season ended. In all, it translated to an ERA+ of 152, meaning he was 52% better than league average. Most encouragingly, it seems to be backed up by his peripherals. His regular ERA of 2.94 wasn’t a significant outperformance of his 3.07 FIP. By the end of May, I believe most people were on board with Weaver and starting to get excited about the future.
On May 26th, he seemed to be throwing a normal game. Through five innings, he had only given up one run, on six hits, with six strike outs, but he was unexpectedly removed from the game due to the dreaded forearm tightness. An MRI revealed that there was no tear in any of the ligaments, only a strain of his UCL. Given that, he and the team chose to rehab the injury instead of opting for a visit to Dr. Andrews for surgery. From the outside looking in, this appears to have been the best choice. The rehab went smoothly, and he was able to appear in game action at the end of the season, much like Walker. He appeared for two scoreless innings against the Padres on September 21st, just four months after the original injury.
While the fact that he was able to appear in a game at the end of the season is promising, I’m not sure how much we should expect from Weaver in 2020. He narrowly avoided having to miss the majority of the season due to injury, so I expect Lovullo and Hazen to keep a close eye on his usage to make sure that ligament isn’t inadvertently damaged again. This of course means innings limits, and probably a close eye on his pitch count on a day to day basis as well.
This doesn’t mean 2020 will be a completely lost season for Weaver. If all goes well with his off-season throwing, I would imagine that he has another strong season. Maybe not quite a 152 ERA+ season, but still solidly above average and once again an important member of the rotation. As to when he gets shut down, I think it will end up being similar to Strasburg’s 2012 season, where he will be shut down at a predetermined point in the season, regardless of the fortunes of the rest of the team. I look forward to that debate when the media decides it costs us a World Series.