Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Angels Sign Weaver at Deadline

In dramatic fashion the Angels signed 2004 first-round pick Jared Weaver to a contract prior to the 9 pm deadline yesterday. Had the Angels not signed Weaver yesterday they would have lost their rights to the 6-7 right-hander from Long Beach State and he would have re-entered the 2005 draft.

The Angels, per club policy, did not release any details on the minor-league contract but Weaver was reportedly seeking a $5.5 million signing bonus on a minor league contract. The major inducement to signing a minor league contract is Weaver's ability to collect the entire signing bonus up-front as opposed to a major league deal that would have allowed the Angels to spread it out over the length of the contract.

Mike Giovanna reported in today's LA Times that it was Weaver who "blinked" in the hard-ball negotiations between the Halos and Weaver's agent Scott Boras as the former Long Beach State standout agreed to what had been the Angels "final offer" of $4 million. It is expected that Weaver will report to the Angels Class A affiliate Rancho Cucamonga which is starting to look like a very interesting team with both Weaver and Kendry Morales. Though the Angels website reports that Weaver will only be sent there so team officials can "work him out and assess his levels of fitness and development". One good thing about Boras is he likely did not let the kid sit around and eat Cheetos while playing eight hours of Playstation a day. Boras operates a top flight conditioning center in Southern California and Weaver likely has spent a little time on the treadmill and throwing over the past 10 months. I would expect him to be sent to Arkansas to join the Travelers rotation unless he really is in need of conditioning. In that case send him over here to Arizona for a little "extended Spring Training" where the 105 degree temps will shed the pounds faster than Jenny Craig.

Boras, commenting on his expectations of Weaver's accent through the Angels' farm system:

"I have four or five players in this draft who are first-round picks, but none are as close to the major leagues as Jered Weaver,"

Boras estimates that Weaver was worth "$1.5 million to $2 million more to someone else." But with the Weaver family comfortable financially thanks to big brother Jeff pitching for the Dodgers there was little incentive for Jared to get greedy (other than pride and family bragging rights). From the start the pairing of Weaver and the Angels looked like a match made in heaven with the hometown kid being selected by the Angels, team long on talent but not noticeably strong in starting pitching. Weaver is a sinkerball pitcher who depends on solid defense to help get him outs and with one of the most talented middle-infields in baseball, the Angels are well suited to compliment Weaver's natural abilities.

The big question is why this negotiation took nearly a year, robbing both Weaver and the Angels of a chance to utilize him in 2005 and possibly 2006. Weaver's asking price last year was $10 million which dropped to $6 million in March and $5.5 million last week. Angel GM Bill Stoneman on the other hand did not budge in his negotiations and continued what has become the Angels business model of tough negotiations and not overpaying players for "potential". The ballclub has shown they are willing to pay market rates (or close) for players in their prime such as Vladimir Guerrero, the new regime in Anaheim seems to have set a ceiling of $4 million for players with big upside but no experience. Both Weaver and former Cuban player Kendry Morales signed $4 million deals to start their careers with the Angels. The tough stance on signing Weaver also dovetails with the Angels overall "team" philosophy that led to the suspension and eventual trading of Jose Guillen and reported harmony in the Halo clubhouse. As individuals the Angels may not like negotiating with Stoneman they seem to respond to the notion that what is good for the team will be, in the long-run, good for them as players.

Will the Angels be exchanging Jared for Jarrod (Washburn) in 2006? We can only hope so. With Jake Woods and Chris Bootcheck both getting extended looks in the majors this season (not to mention Ervin Santana) the Angels could have a number of options in 2006. Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar and Paul Byrd will all be under contract but both Washburn and John Lackey are pitching under one-year deals in 2005 and could be replaced by the youngsters. In particular, Washburn's $6.5 million per season price seems vastly out of step with such an inconsistent pitcher and if Byrd does not start putting a few wins together, his $5 million price tag is going to look a bit overburdening as well. Lackey only pitches well for about half the season but at $440,000 he remains a relative bargain. With $4 million already invested in Weaver, the Angels will likely try to get the kid to the big leagues as fast as his arm is ready. The Angels made news this spring by wrapping-up one of the best bullpens in baseball for a total payroll outlay of just $3.5 million. Now imagine a starting rotation by 2007 with Weaver, Santana, Bootcheck and possibly Steven Shell, Dustin Moseley or Joe Saunders for a total price (sans signing bonus') of around $3 million per season total? Unlikely? Yes, since the Angels will likely want and need to keep some veteran leadership around the young pitchers but even if only three of these guys make the team that leaves a lot of cash on the table to re-sign key sluggers like Anderson and Guerrero while still having enough left-over to bring in a free-agent hired gun. Of course, by then they will be paying their bullpen market rates unless they can replenish from the minors there. The bottom line is that by having so much talent in the minor leagues the Angels will have a lot of options going forward and a competitive team for the next decade.

"I just don't know enough about him," Stoneman said, when asked how close to the big leagues Weaver is. "He hasn't pitched competitively in a year, and we're not sure what kind of shape he's in. We definitely don't want to rush things … but as soon as he's ready for a challenge, we want to give him one."

Bill Stoneman in today's LA Times


***********************************************************************************

Weaver's Long Beach State Career:

Record: 37-9
ERA: 2.43
Strikeouts: 431 (3 seasons)
Best year: Junior season 15-1 with 1.62 ERA and 213 K's, 21 BB over 144 innings

38 Comments:

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i could be wrong and i am far too lazy to look this up, but i thought that byrd was only here on a one year contract, so weaver and santana could step in next year if everything falls in place.

-MATT

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