Baseball BeatMay 30, 2005
Today's The Day
By Rich Lederer

Update (Monday, 9:50 pm PST). . Angels, Jered Weaver Agree to Terms. Baseball America: Weaver, Drew Agree to Terms.

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The standoff continues. If the Los Angeles Angels and Jered Weaver don't reach an agreement by midnight Eastern time (is there any other?), then one of the most decorated players in college baseball history will go back into the amateur draft.

Here is where the two sides stand:

  • The Angels have offered Weaver a $4 million minor league contract or a $5.25 million major league contract. The team has stood firm with those offers since early this year.

  • Weaver's agent, Scott Boras, is asking for a $6 million guaranteed contract plus $250,000 per year for each season his client pitches in the big leagues in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Boras had originally demanded a Mark Prior-like $10M package, then lowered his asking price to $8M, before reducing it to the current level.

    Depending on how you look at it, the Angels and Weaver are a minimum of $750,000 and a maximum of $1.5M apart. Given that the deal being discussed is for five years, it is fair to conclude that the difference comes down to between $150,000 and $300,000 per year--amounts that seem like chump change for a billionaire owner and perhaps a matter of pride for a 22-year-old, soon-to-be multi-millionaire.

    By offering Weaver (barely) more than any other player from the 2004 draft, the Angels seem to think their offer is more than fair. On the other hand, the Weaver camp believes it has compromised on two occasions to a range that puts the price tag much closer to the deals inked by Justin Verlander, Jeff Niemann, and Philip Humber in late 2004 and early 2005 than that signed by Prior in 2001.

    The Angels seem intent on staying pat with their offer and appear willing to let Weaver go back into next week's draft.

    Rightly or wrongly, Boras has shown his hand by lowering his demands of a $10M deal to, say, $6M-$6.75M. As such, I would be surprised if the team that drafts Weaver even matches that offer. You see, it's not like Weaver is going to have much, if any, leverage the next time around. What is he going to do, sit out another year?

    From my vantage point, the system, which is stacked for the teams and against the amateur players, needs to be changed. I would argue that Major League Baseball and The Major League Baseball Players Association should discuss the following alternatives in their next Collective Bargaining Agreement:

    1. Adopt an NBA/NFL-style pay scale for first round draft slots.

    2. Allow teams the right to trade draft picks.

    3. Open up the negotiations to more than one team (perhaps an American and a National League club could each have the right to negotiate with first round draft picks).

    4. Keep the system the same for high school players and underclassmen but allow seniors the right to negotiate with all teams.

    5. Disallow the right to a supplemental draft slot for teams that fail to sign their first round picks.

    Going down the list, proposal number one would make it known in advance how much draftees would make, irrespective of the team that selected them or the agent who represented them. Number two would actually help level the playing field by allowing a team like the Padres last year to trade the number one pick to another team in exchange for perhaps two late first round picks or a package of amateur picks and minor or major league players. Number three will never happen as long as the owners have any say in the matter but would be a much more fair proposition for the players that would still fall well short of total free agency.

    Proposal number four intrigues me for a couple of reasons. First of all, high school, community college, and juniors all have the option of going pro or back to school. They have some--although not a lot of--leverage when it comes to bonus and salary negotiations. Seniors, on the other hand, have virtually nowhere to turn other than to capitulate to whatever the teams offer. I mean, where else are they going to get that kind of money? They have no competing league to negotiate with, their skills are not transferable to pro basketball or football, and, for the most part, could never make that kind of dough in the real world. Putting seniors into a better position from a bargaining standpoint would also encourage students-athletes to complete their college education and get a degree.

    With respect to proposal number five, I cannot for the life of me understand why teams should be compensated for not signing a player they chose. MLB pulled a fast one on the players here. If anything, it discourages a team from paying up, knowing they will get a reasonable consolation prize if they don't reach an agreement. Look, if you select a player and you don't sign him, whose fault is that? Why should the rest of baseball subsidize your ignorance, stupidity, hardheadedness, or even bad luck? The penalty for taking a player like Weaver and not signing him is simply not stiff enough. Do away with the supplemental pick and you will see a more concerted effort on the part of the teams to draft and sign all of their selections.

    As it relates to Weaver (and Stephen Drew, the other unsigned first round pick), the clock is ticking and neither side seems willing to budge off their final offers. The Angels didn't even bother sending Bill Stoneman, Eddie Bane, or one of the team's east coast scouts to watch Jered pitch a simulated game for the Camden (N.J.) Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League on Saturday although 20 scouts from around baseball found the time to check out Weaver.

    "Our number is not going to change," Stoneman told the L.A. Times this weekend. "If they're not going to find that one acceptable, there's not much point in sending anyone out there. . .I've had no indication they're going to accept what we have out there."

    If Weaver doesn't sign with the Angels within the next 12 hours, he will pitch twice before the upcoming draft--in relief on Tuesday and as a starter on Friday. Where Jered will go and how much he will get is anybody's guess. On one hand, he probably won't get much more than what the Angels are offering, if that. On the other hand, the Angels aren't going to find anybody outside the organization as good and as cheap as Weaver who could fill the shoes of either Paul Byrd or Jarrod Washburn, both of whom will be free agents at the end of the year and looking at contracts on the order of $5M per year in the case of Byrd and $7.5M-$8M/year for Washburn (who, by the way, is another Boras client).

  • Comments

    Not to nit-pick but Wayne Townsend was also a first-rounder that wasn't signed. He returned to college thinking if he renounced his eligibility it would keep the window open for signing, and MLB /NCAA ruled against him.

    Interesting concept on the draft policies, but I would argue that baseball is the only sport where the player holds the cards.

    Because a player can return (or attend) to collegiate ball hence ending their affiliation with that team. As long as they do not sign an agent or ruin their NCAA elgibility in any other way (i.e. Townsend) they can re-enter the draft, which doesn't happen in any of the other sports.

    I was aware of Townsend but excluded him because he wasn't eligible to be signed by the Baltimore Orioles, the team that selected him last June. As you pointed out, he went back to college and will once again enter the amateur draft next week.

    As far as the comparison between baseball and the NBA/NFL drafts, the players in the former sport don't make themselves "available" the way those in the latter do. They are chosen without regard to whether they have or haven't decided to turn pro.