Baseball BeatDecember 01, 2004
Angels Pass on Weaver for More Rallies?
By Rich Lederer

The Angels reached an agreement today with Kendry Morales, a highly touted prospect who defected from Cuba in June. According to and, the length of the contract is said to be for six years. No dollar terms were announced.

The deal is conditional upon Morales, 21, receiving clearance to enter into a contract with the Angels from the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. Morales, who was originally granted asylum in the United States, gained residency in the Dominican Republic earlier this week. A Cuban player that acquires residency in a third country can avoid the draft and become immediately eligible for free agent status.

"We hope it's sooner rather than later," Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said Wednesday on a conference call. "I think he got a pretty nice contract. I'm not going to get into (terms). Hopefully he'll play very well for those six years and beyond."

Morales, a first baseman, third baseman, and corner outfielder, has been described "as the best position player to come out of his country in decades." The 6'1", 225-pound slugger batted cleanup for Cuba in the 2003 World Cup in Havana. His grand slam helped the Cubans beat Taiwan 6-3 in the finals.

The recipient of a major league contract, Morales is expected to compete for a spot on the big league club in spring training. If the switch-hitting youngster breaks camp with the Angels, look for him to become the primary designated hitter and backup LF/1B.

With the addition of Morales, Casey Kotchman becomes more expendable than ever. I wouldn't be surprised if the Angels used Kotchman as trade bait to acquire either a center fielder or a starting pitcher, especially if they are unsuccessful at signing free agent Carlos Beltran. A Kotchman-plus package for Randy Johnson would give the Diamondbacks a low-cost replacement for Richie Sexson, who is rumored to be seeking a multi-year contract at $10 million per season. The Angels could also include John Lackey, either Jeff DaVanon or Juan Rivera, Alfredo Amezaga or Maicer Izturis, plus one of their middle relievers (Kevin Gregg?) in as much as a five-for-one deal for the Big Unit.

The Morales transaction also may have implications for Jered Weaver. As I reported two weeks ago, Weaver could find himself on the outside looking in if the Angels use the money earmarked for their #1 pick to sign the Cuban youngster. Ten million here and ten million there. Pretty soon, it starts adding up to real money.

Oh, what tangled webs we weaver, when first we practice to deceiver.

Update (12/2/04): The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Morales contract, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations, includes a $3-million signing bonus and an overall value of $10 million if "the bulk of the incentives" are attained. Stoneman also said Weaver was "still under consideration."


Yes, it seems increasingly likely that the Angels will land Johnson, if only because with Morales making Kotchman expendible (from the Angels' point of view) they clearly have the best package to offer.

Before the Giambi story broke, I was wondering if the Angels were the real front runners in signing Adrian Beltre. It seemed to make perfect sense. Kotchman and McPherson would be an irresistible offer for Johnson. And Beltre's young, he's latin, and it would seriously piss-off Dodger fans across the street... but am I just being paranoid, or did Beltre put on a lot of muscle really, really fast?

Given the backlash and Giambi's health woes, I'm tempted to think clubs are going to shy away from players with steroid questions marks. If so, the bidding wars on lean and mean Carlos Beltran just went up a notch.