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Weaver Agrees to Deal

Angels' top 2004 draft pick accepts a $4-million signing bonus just before the deadline.

May 31, 2005|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — In the negotiating equivalent of a game-winning, 65-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass with the final seconds ticking off the clock, the Angels and 2004 first-round pick Jered Weaver agreed to a $4-million signing bonus in the final hour before Monday's 9 p.m. deadline to sign the former Long Beach State ace.

With the sides at an impasse for almost a year and about $1.5 million apart going into the weekend, Weaver, the 12th overall pick in last June's draft, essentially yielded to the Angels' demands, agreeing to a minor league deal, pending the passing of a physical this week, for the same amount offered to the right-hander in late February.

Had Weaver, 22, not signed Monday he would have reentered next week's draft, a prospect that seemed to grow less attractive by the hour Monday, considering there was no guarantee the team that drafted Weaver would accede to his demands, especially knowing Weaver probably wouldn't sit out a second consecutive season.

"I had no indication that this was going to happen, really, until [Monday], and it still took most of the day," Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman said on a conference call. "There were a lot of last-minute discussions. It was finally completed fairly close to the deadline."

Though the Angels' hard-line stance in negotiations clearly paid off -- it was Weaver who blinked in what seemed like a high-stakes game of chicken, but it was Weaver who initiated talks that led to the agreement and who compromised the most -- Stoneman was in no mood to gloat.

"This is a win-win situation, and we're happy to have made the agreement," Stoneman said. "I had a feeling he wanted to get it done and join the Angels. He's a local kid, and he was top player in college baseball last year."

Agent Scott Boras, who attended Monday night's Dodger-Cub game, said at 8 p.m. he was still awaiting Weaver's decision. As fans departed and janitors started cleaning the seating area, Boras remained in the luxury seats adjacent to the Cubs' dugout in Dodger Stadium, with the agent juggling two cellphones from 8:30 to 9 p.m. as he heard, and then passed along, Weaver's choice.

Boras said he spoke with Stoneman on Friday, Saturday and Monday and said he sensed no animosity from the general manager over the protracted and public negotiations. Boras said the Angels were "wise" to offer the minor league contract, which allows Weaver to collect the entire signing bonus without having it spread over five years.

"I think Anaheim is a good place for him," Boras said. "He's a sinkerball pitcher."

With brother Jeff pitching for the Dodgers, Boras said, Weaver did not have the economic incentive to reenter the draft that a player might otherwise have.

"He has a major league brother, and it's his hometown team; those two variables were big when he weighed them against what other teams think his value is," Boras said. "He's probably worth $1.5 million to $2 million more to someone else."

Boras also said he expected Weaver, who will probably join the Angels' Class-A Rancho Cucamonga team for workouts next week, to climb rapidly through the Angel farm system.

"I have four or five players in this draft who are first-round picks, but none are as close to the major leagues as Jered Weaver," Boras said.

Weaver, who went 15-1 with a 1.62 earned run average at Long Beach last season, striking out 213 and walking 21 in 144 innings and winning the Golden Spikes Award, sought a signing package in the $10-million range before dropping his asking price to $8 million in March to $6 million last week.

The Angels made it clear they would not budge from their last offer of a five-year, $5.25-million major league deal or a $4-million minor league deal. The $5.25-million package would have been more than any player from the 2004 draft received.

Boras countered last week with a proposal asking for $6 million in a major league contract and $750,000 incentives if Weaver played in the big leagues in each season from 2006 to 2008, or a minor league deal with a $5.5-million signing bonus.

Negotiations grew testy at times, with Boras criticizing the Angels for selecting Weaver when they had no intention of meeting his original asking price, Stoneman accusing Boras of putting "a spin on it to make it look like he's made major concessions to get a deal done," and Angel scouting director Eddie Bane rebutting Boras' claim that Weaver could be ready to pitch in the big leagues this season.

Weaver even went so far as to sign with the Camden (N.J.) Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League this month, but he did not pitch in a regular-season game. Instead, Weaver will return to Southern California this week, and speculation about when he can help the Angels' big league club can really begin.

"I just don't know enough about him," Stoneman said, when asked how close to the big leagues Weaver is. "He hasn't pitched competitively in a year, and we're not sure what kind of shape he's in. We definitely don't want to rush things ... but as soon as he's ready for a challenge, we want to give him one."

Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.

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