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Weaver Goes to Angels

His price scares off some, allowing Anaheim to grab Long Beach State pitcher with 12th pick.

June 08, 2004|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

To almost a dozen major league teams, Jered Weaver's asking price was too high. To Arte Moreno, the Angel owner who spent $146 million on free agents last winter, Weaver's asking price is tip money.

Moreno does not pay simply on demand, but he doesn't shudder at demands either. So, in a strange turn of events that left Weaver giddy even as he was branded greedy, the Angels used the 12th pick of Monday's first-year player draft to select perhaps the best player available.

Weaver, the Long Beach State ace and brother of Dodger pitcher Jeff Weaver, was thrilled at the chance to play near his Simi Valley home. He had no idea the Angels were even interested, he said, until they telephoned him in the final moments before the draft.

"I jumped through the roof when they called my name," he said. "It's going to be sweet playing in my backyard, in front of my friends and family."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 09, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Baseball franchise -- A listing of baseball draft picks in Tuesday's Sports section stated that in 1965, Rick Monday was the No. 1 pick of the Oakland Athletics. In 1965, the Athletic franchise was in Kansas City.

The Angels had long been interested in Weaver, but until Monday morning they had no idea he would slip so far. He dominated college baseball all season and emerged as the projected No. 1 pick, but his stock dropped in recent days as he expressed interest in a contract similar to the one signed by Chicago Cub pitcher Mark Prior.

In 2001, drafted second in the country after his junior season at USC, Prior agreed to a five-year, $10.5-million contract that included a $4-million bonus. Pitcher Dewon Brazelton, drafted third that year, signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for a $4.8-million bonus. Each pitcher received a major league contract, meaning he cannot be sent to the minor leagues after three years without first allowing other teams to claim him on waivers.

Weaver said his advisor, Scott Boras, "told me he saw me in the range of Brazelton and Prior."

The Angels paid a club-record $2.25-million signing bonus to third baseman Troy Glaus, the No. 3 pick in the 1997 draft. He did not receive a major league contract.

The San Diego Padres, with the No. 1 pick, selected Mission Bay High shortstop Matt Bush and agreed with him on a reported $3.1-million bonus.

Kevin Towers, San Diego's general manager, spoke highly of Weaver after watching him pitch at Petco Park this spring but made clear the Padres considered the asking price exorbitant.

"If we thought there was a player worth $10 million in this draft, we'd give it to him," Towers told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Baltimore Orioles, who spent $123 million on free agents Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez, Rafael Palmeiro and Sidney Ponson and offered an additional $78 million to Vladimir Guerrero, had the No. 10 pick. They passed on Weaver too, although they did draft a college pitcher.

"If the money matches the talent, we're ready to pay the money," said Jim Beattie, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations. "But we're not going to overpay."

Baseball America ranks Weaver as the player closest to the majors among draftees. Boras puts Weaver in a class with Prior, Jim Abbott and Mark Teixeira among recent prospects virtually ready for the majors and thus able to command a premium price, even if some teams choose not to pay.

"The best players rarely are chosen No. 1 in the modern draft," Boras said.

Weaver, 21, is 15-1 with a 1.65 earned-run average, with 19 walks and 201 strikeouts in 136 innings. The junior right-hander is expected to pitch again Friday, when Long Beach State faces Arizona in the opener of the best-of-three NCAA super-regionals, with the winner advancing to the College World Series.

Angel scouting director Eddie Bane said General Manager Bill Stoneman has "started the ball rolling" with Boras, although Stoneman and Boras said formal negotiations had not begun. Boras has met several times with Moreno, as recently as last week, although the topics of discussion were unclear.

There is no hurry, since the Angels might prefer to rest Weaver after a long college season and since Boras' clients do not tend to sign quickly anyway.

"I want to go play," Weaver said. "I told Scott that."

Weaver said he was not disappointed about falling so far from the No. 1 spot.

"I never really cared about going No. 1 or No. 2," he said. "I just want to go play baseball."

He said the Padres never told him why they backed off but added, "I figured the money maybe scared them off." He said he knew that selecting Boras as his advisor might cause teams to pass on him -- and indeed eight pitchers were selected ahead of him -- but said he did not regret hiring Boras.

"I trust him," Weaver said. "He's the best in the business."

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