The Orange County Register has a somewhat more pessimistic outlook on the negotiations between Jered Weaver and the Angels than the Los Angeles Times. According to the headline, "Weaver will wait until deal is right" and is prepared "to hold out if the Angels don't offer him what he and his agent, Scott Boras, are seeking."
"It would be a great experience, something I've always wanted to do. But if it doesn't get done, it doesn't get done," Weaver said. "I don't really know what else to say. I hope to have the experience, whether it's this year or next year."
Boras and the Angels have exchanged offers and counteroffers during the past two weeks in the first serious attempt to work out a deal since Weaver was drafted eight months ago. However, a signing does not appear to be as imminent as I was led to believe when I reported that Weaver and the Angels could tie the knot "any day now."
With Boras admitting that they are "not seeking to make Jered the highest-paid college pitcher ever," he is acknowledging that Weaver can be had for less than $10.5 million. "We're seeking something under that. We're seeking a bonus that places Jered in the upper echelon of talent. He's one of the best pitchers in the history of college baseball."
"The greater the talent, the later they seem to sign. Everyone knew going into the draft that Jered Weaver was heads-and-shoulders above any other college pitcher. The other talents were not comparable."
I don't see where these negotiations should be as difficult as they have been. Given Boras' admission as well as the framework provided by the signings of Justin Verlander, Philip Humber, and Jeff Niemann, a contract somewhere between the one that Mark Prior signed and those inked by the above trio should be agreeable to both sides.
For background purposes, let's review what each of these players received. As I reported in Weaver-Prior Revisited last June, Mark Prior signed a five-year contract with the Chicago Cubs for $10.5 million in August 2001, which included a $4 million signing bonus and the following annual salaries:
2002: $ 250,000
2003: $ 650,000
Verlander, Humber, and Niemann agreed to the following terms:
Player Team Bonus Min-Max
Verlander Tigers $3.12m $4.5-$5.6m
Humber Mets $3.00m $4.2-$5.116m
Niemann Devil Rays $3.20m $5.2m
OK, less than Prior would mean a signing bonus under $4 million and a total package below $10.5 million. More than Verlander, Humber, and Niemann would suggest a signing bonus in excess of $3.2 million, a minimum value north of $5.2 million, and a total value greater than $5.6 million.
Although I should get a fee for brokering this deal should it come to pass, I will do my civic duty and volunteer the following two proposals:
$3.5 million signing bonus. $6 million minimum. $10 million maximum.
$3.5 million signing bonus. $8.5 million.
In Seriously Speaking, I used the same $6 million and $10 million bookends and suggested that the Angels -- in the spirit of the Houston Astros-Roger Clemens compromise -- "agree to give in a little to let the player win and, bingo, you�ve got yourself a deal at or near $8.5 million." I said it back then and I will say it again, "that is a number that should work for both sides."
C'mon, guys. This isn't rocket science. Weaver gets more than any player from the 2004 draft. The Angels get the most polished and major-league ready pitcher with the 12th pick and save face by not having to pop for a Prior-like contract. Although the total value would be outside the "slot" money assigned by the Commissioner's Office, even Frank Coonelly (Chief Labor Counsel, MLB) would have a difficult time not endorsing this deal given the extenuating circumstances surrounding it.
However, if Arte Moreno, Bill Stoneman, and Eddie Bane are more interested in keeping Coonelly happy than Weaver, then they need to recognize that the winner of every major award in college baseball last year is willing to go back in the draft if the Angels don't meet his demands.
"I've waited eight months. What's another three? It's a big game. You never know when things are going to get going, but it's definitely been tough. I just kind of laugh at it at this point. You don't expect something like this, especially after what I did last year.
"I just want a team to want me. Whatever that team may be, I'm going to give my all to prove what I'm all about."
Unfortunately, Stoneman seems to have a take it or leave it attitude about the proceedings. "It's up to him (Weaver) to decide when he's going to get going."
No, Bill, it is up to you to offer a contract that is commensurate with Weaver's stats and scouting report. The Angels are either in denial if they don't think he is the best amateur pitcher this side of Prior or are simply playing hardball with the man who may be good enough to pitch in Anaheim as early as this summer and certainly no later than the beginning of 2006.
In the meantime, should Stoneman and Boras wish for me to mediate their negotiations in time for Weaver to report to spring training with the pitchers and catchers on Wednesday, they know where I can be reached.