Weaver, Angels break off talks

By John Manuel
March 25, 2005

Jered Weaver’s holdout, already one of the longest in draft history, appears to have no end in sight.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Daily News, the Angels have broken off talks with Weaver and his agent, Scott Boras. Angels general manager Bill Stoneman, who was handling negotiations for the club, said he anticipates Weaver will not sign with the Angels and will instead re-enter the 2005 draft.

“It’s not in our control,” Stoneman told the Daily News. “We made him the best offer in this year’s draft or last year’s draft, and the player is not here. Our objective all along was to sign him. If it wasn’t, why would we offer him what we did?”

If Weaver doesn’t sign with the Angels within a week of the 2005 draft'which begins June 7–the Angels will lose the right to sign him, and Weaver will have to re-enter the draft. He would join former Rice righthander Wade Townsend, who failed to sign with the Orioles as the eighth overall pick, in re-entering the draft. Former Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew, also a Boras client, remains unsigned as well; the Diamondbacks drafted him 15th overall.

The Angels drafted Weaver 12th overall out of Long Beach State, where he was the 2004 College Player of the Year, and entered long, difficult negotiations with Boras. At first, Boras was thought to be asking for a contact similar to the four-year, $10.5 million guarantee the Cubs gave to Mark Prior in 2001. However, in recent weeks, Boras said the Prior contract was no longer the standard, and was thought to be asking for a major league deal more in the $7.5-$8 million range.

The Daily News reports the Angels’ latest offers were a straight $4 million bonus on a minor league contract, or a five-year big league deal with a $5.25 million guarantee. Those figures were more in line with what the Devil Rays gave the fourth overall pick, Rice righthander Jeff Niemann. He signed in January for the largest package of any 2004 draft pick, as he received a $3.2 million bonus and a major league contract guaranteeing him $5.2 million.

Boras has repeatedly stated he considers Weaver the top pitcher available in the ’04 draft class, yet many scouts believe Niemann quite comparable, and Niemann has better pure stuff. He also posted a year in 2003, as a sophomore, that was quite comparable to Weaver’s amazing ’04 season. Niemann went 17-0, 1.70 in leading Rice to the College World Series title, striking out 156 and walking 35 in 137 innings while limiting opponents to a .196 average. Weaver, pitching in one of college baseball’s worst hitter’s parks (Blair Field), went 15-1, 1.63 with 213 strikeout and 21 walks in 144 innings. Hitters mustered a paltry .162 average against Weaver.

Niemann battled two injuries–an October 2003 arthroscopic procedure on his right elbow and a groin strain–during his 2004 season, when he went 6-3, 3.02 with 94 strikeouts in 80 innings. However, he consistently throws harder than Weaver, topping out at 97 mph, and many scouting directors considered his slider the draft’s nastiest breaking ball. His command of four pitches–fastball, curve, slider and change–may fall a grade behind Weaver’s, but it is still considered above-average.

Boras told the Daily News that he can’t understand why the Angels compare Weaver and Niemann, and erroneously said Niemann has had Tommy John surgery.

The Angels also failed to sign their fourth-round pick, outfielder Patrick White, but they signed three high school players who were considered first-round talents in corner infielder Mark Trumbo and righthanders Nick Adenhart and Bobby Cassevah. Adenhart and Cassevah both saw their draft stock fall due to Tommy John surgery. The Angels also signed Cuban defector Kendry Morales, considered by most teams a first-round talent, to a major league contract that included a $3 million signing bonus.