Baseball BeatAugust 31, 2004
"School's Out" For Weaver
By Rich Lederer

According to an article in the Long Beach Press-Telegram this morning, "a school official confirmed that unsigned Angels first-round pick Jered Weaver will not enroll this year, ensuring the Angels retain rights to the 12th overall selection."

Weaver remains one of six unsigned first-round picks. Old Dominion's Justin Verlander (#2, Tigers) and Rice's threesome of Philip Humber (#3, Mets), Jeff Niemann (#4, Devil Rays) and Wade Townsend (#8, Orioles) have not signed yet. These four pitchers are undoubtedly waiting to see what Weaver gets before committing as I have no doubt that the College Player of the Year will wind up with the most lucrative financial package of all the draftees.

In the meantime, Baseball America is reporting that Stephen Drew has been offered a four-year major league contract by the Arizona Diamondbacks for "close to the $4.79 million package Rickie Weeks got from the Brewers" as the second overall pick in the 2003 draft. The contract offer reportedly would allow Drew to earn 50% more than Weeks' maximum of $5.5 million.

According to the Baseball America article, "a Drew family source said there are concerns with Arizona's proposal. The two main sticking points are that more than half of the signing bonus is deferred to the years 2011 and 2013, and that the guaranteed money is less than Weeks' and well short of what Drew made it be known he wanted at the time of the draft, believed to be at least $7 million."

Drew's contract is important to Weaver because both players were considered #1 draft picks at one point but fell because of signability concerns. Drew and Weaver also share the same agent--Scott Boras. Although neither player is likely to get as much as they may have had they gone first or second in the draft, both stand a good chance of signing for as much or more than anyone else despite slipping to the 12th (Weaver) and 15th (Drew) spots.

As an indication that a player's draft position isn't necessarily correlated to the size of the contract, consider that the Angels paid 18th-round third baseman Mark Trumbo, a first-round caliber talent who had signed a letter of intent to attend USC, $1.425 million.

Had Weaver attended class when school started on Monday, the Angels would have lost the rights to sign him. Instead, the Angels will retain negotiating rights until next year's draft in June.

Given the fact that Weaver is a Southern California native, it would seem as if the two parties are a match made in heaven. However, the Angels are not willing to offer the eight-figure contract that Boras indicated might be necessary to sign his client. Former USC star Mark Prior received a $10 million package from the Chicago Cubs in 2001 and Boras apparently is intent on getting a similar deal for Weaver.

The Angels, on the other hand, are probably thinking in terms of a $5 million type package. Is there room for a compromise? Probably, but it may take a while for both sides to see the light.

Angels minor leaguers report for instructional league on September 16, and the organization's top prospects will begin play in the Arizona Fall League the following month.

"Fall League is really important to Jered," P-T reporter Gabe Lacques quotes Eddie Bane, the Angels scouting director, in today's article. "(Weaver) needs to be here and start competing for a job in the Angels organization."

For more on the status of the other draft choices, check out All-Baseball colleague Bryan Smith's Wait 'Til Next Year columns.