Though first-round pick Jered Weaver dropped his asking price from $10 million last summer to $8 million in March to about $6 million this week, the chances of a deal between the Angels and the former Long Beach State ace still seem remote.
Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman said Wednesday that he had no intention of budging from the $5.25-million offer he made to agent Scott Boras in late February, and Boras said the $6-million counterproposal he made Monday was his final offer, leaving the sides exactly where they've been for the last year: at an impasse, though one with a narrower gap.
If Weaver, the 12th pick in the 2004 draft, doesn't sign by 9 p.m. Monday, he will reenter the June 7 draft.
"In our mind, we made our best offer in February, and the bottom line is the likelihood of Weaver being with us hasn't changed," said Stoneman, who spoke with Boras on Wednesday morning. "We made him an offer that is better than anybody in that draft signed for.
"I know Scott characterizes things in a certain way, and obviously he's going to put a spin on it to make it look like he's made major concessions to get a deal done. But the fact remains that we're still far, far apart, and what he's asking us to do is bid against ourselves. We're not about to do that."
But would the Angels allow a $750,000 gap to stand in the way of an agreement with the player many considered the top college pitcher in last year's draft, a 6-foot-7 right-hander who was 15-1 with a 1.62 earned-run average at Long Beach, striking out 213 and walking 21 in 144 innings, and winning the Golden Spikes Award?
"We put an offer out there that should have gotten this guy into camp for spring training," Stoneman said. "Unfortunately, [Boras] considered that just another step [in negotiations] and thought we'd go higher. That wasn't the intent. The intent was to offer him more than anyone else got and get him into camp, and it wasn't enough.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of. He turned it down. If he wants more, I'm sorry. At some point, in any negotiation, you reach your breaking point. Do you keep throwing money at him? No."
Boras extended his latest offer Monday to give the Angels a week to put Weaver through the required physical if they decided to sign him. But Boras said the sides could also reach an agreement pending a physical, eliminating that as a potential hurdle.
"I had a conversation with Bill Stoneman [about two weeks ago], and he asked if there was any way we could move off our position to get a deal done," Boras said. "We made an adjustment, and as we're approaching the draft, we wanted to let them know where our bottom line was before we moved forward."
Weaver, who last week signed with the Camden (N.J.) Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League, seemed encouraged by the developments.
Signing with the Angels is "definitely not out of the equation," Weaver said Wednesday by phone from New Jersey. "We're still trying to work something out. I'm trying to make every compromise with the Angels and get this deal done. It's a matter of them coming forward and seeing if they want to get it done as well."
But it seems the Angels have gone as far as they will go.
"We're not going to stretch where Boras wants us to stretch to, because we think it's beyond the realm of fairness," Stoneman said. "At the end of the day, he wanted more than anyone else in the draft. I had to step back and look at it objectively. Is this player really that much better than the other guys in the draft? We like him. We think he's good. But we liked the other guys who were drafted high in the first round too."
Said Angel owner Arte Moreno: "Right now, we believe we have a better-than-fair deal on the table. We're offering No. 1 pick money. We negotiated in good faith in February. Now, it's the 25th hour, and for us to negotiate against ourselves is not a stance the organization is taking."
Moreno said he was still "holding out hope" Weaver would sign. "It would really be great for him to play here in his hometown It's a good place to play."
Times staff writer Ben Bolch contributed to this report.