Baseball BeatOctober 25, 2004
Justin Time For Weaver
By Rich Lederer

The Detroit Tigers signed Justin Verlander over the weekend to a five-year major league contract according to Pat Caputo of Baseball America. Verlander received a signing bonus of $3.12 million in a deal that guarantees the second pick in the draft a minimum of $4.5 million and a maximum of $5.6 million.

With a fastball that approaches 100-mph, the former Old Dominion right-hander was regarded as the hardest-throwing college pitcher available in the draft. In an interview with Jered Weaver last spring, I asked the former Long Beach State ace how he compared to Verlander given that the two pitchers played together on Team USA in the summer of 2003.

"Verlander, I think, throws harder. I think I have better location and 'pitchibility'. It's just a matter of developing for both of us."

With Verlander under contract, there remains five first-round picks who have not come to terms with the teams that drafted them--Rices threesome of Philip Humber (#3, Mets), Jeff Niemann (#4, Devil Rays) and Wade Townsend (#8, Orioles); Weaver (#12, Angels) and Florida State's Stephen Drew (#15, Diamondbacks). Townsend returned to classes at Rice this fall and will go into next year's draft pool, while the other four are at various stages in their negotiations.

Weaver's agent Scott Boras is believed to be asking for a deal similar to Mark Prior's five-year $10.5 million contract. The Angels, on the other hand, are reportedly posturing a willingness to forego signing the College Player of the Year in order to pursue one of the many talented free agent pitchers available this off-season. Make no mistake about it, the Angels would like to corral Jered. With that in mind, it would seem to me that Verlander's deal sets the floor for Weaver's services while Prior's contract three years ago establishes the ceiling.

Question to Boras and Angels' General Manager Bill Stoneman: Why can't you agree on a five-year deal for $7.5 million? When you finally get together, don't forget to send me a check for 3% of the transaction value. That's "L-e-d-e-r-e-r."


I know this happens in other sports, but could these hold outs be prevented if baseball allowed teams to trade their draft picks?

More importantly, if baseball put its feet down and imposed a bonus cap on amateur draftees, this wouldn't happen. Boras is a creep, through and through.

Yes, there would be fewer holdouts if baseball allowed teams to trade draft picks. There would be even fewer (read: virtually zero) holdouts if baseball abolished the draft altogether. I'm not suggesting that they should or shouldn't and am only commenting on the economics of the draft.

As far as a bonus cap, I don't think the players' union would go along with that. And why should they?