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Jered Weaver ‘loses’ in arbitration case

Jered Weaver learned Thursday that he lost his arbitration case to the Angels, a ruling that dictates the ace will receive a salary of $7.365 million this season instead of the $8.8 million he was seeking.

It’s doubtful anyone in the Angels’ front office was doing cartwheels. The win saved the team $1.435 million on a 2011 payroll that is pushing $140 million, but it could contribute to a major loss down the road.

The arbitration process can be contentious, with teams forced to essentially disparage even their best players in an effort to prove why they are worth less than what they’re asking for.

Some players come away from hearings with hurt feelings, which can fuel animosity toward the team and linger, in some cases hastening their departure.

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That is why teams often go to great lengths to avoid arbitration with star players, as the Texas Rangers did when they secured Josh Hamilton to a two-year, $24-million deal Thursday.

Weaver was not available for comment, but he did attend Wednesday’s hearing in Phoenix.

The Angels are left to wonder: Could the arbitration process weaken Weaver’s loyalty to the team that drafted him and help push him out the door as a free agent after the 2012 season?

“That depends on the player,” Angels General Manager Tony Reagins said. “As far as the arbitration process, it’s behind us. We have Jered under control for this year and next year.”

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The Angels want to secure Weaver to a long-term deal, but there was not enough progress in negotiations to prevent the hearing. Reagins would not say whether talks will continue.

Asked if the Angels offered to meet Weaver near the midpoint of the two salary figures, which would be $8.09 million, Reagins said, “I would say no.”

Thursday’s decision, handed down by arbitrators Margaret Brogan, James Oldham and Robert Herzog, also shows just how arbitrary the arbitration process can be.

Some fans might wonder how a 28-year-old right-hander who went 13-12 with a 3.01 earned-run average and a major league-leading 233 strikeouts last season could lose in arbitration when, only a day earlier, Pittsburgh pitcher Ross Ohlendorf, who went 1-11 in 2010, won his case.

And how could one of the weakest hitters in baseball, Angels catcher Jeff Mathis, win his arbitration case last spring, earning a salary of $1.3 million instead of the $700,000 the Angels offered?

There are no definitive answers — baseball does not make its arbitrators available for comment.

But did Weaver really lose? In his second year of arbitration eligibility, he still got a hefty raise from the $4.265 million he made in 2010; the arbitrators just didn’t think he deserved to more than double his salary.

The panel looks at salaries and service times for comparable players, and in Weaver’s case there are at least two star pitchers who may have contributed to their decision to pick the lower salary figure.

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Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, who has a 71-53 career record, 3.20 ERA and 1,042 strikeouts, made $6.5 million in 2010, which would have been his second year of arbitration.

Detroit ace Justin Verlander, who has an 83-52 career record, 3.81 ERA and 965 strikeouts, made $6.75 million last season, also his second year of arbitration.

Weaver, who has a 64-39 career record, 3.55 ERA and 779 strikeouts, will make more than both in his second year of arbitration.

Ohlendorf and Mathis were in their first year of arbitration, where salaries are often much lower. And despite his record, Ohlendorf had a respectable 4.07 ERA in 21 starts last season, which carried a lot of weight for arbitrators who determined he was worth the $2.02 million he asked for instead of the $1.4 million the Pirates offered.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.


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