After six months of little dialogue and virtually no progress toward an agreement, the Angels and the representative for first-round pick Jered Weaver are in “serious discussions” that both sides hope will result in the former Long Beach State ace’s signing before the start of spring training in February.
Neither agent Scott Boras nor Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman would elaborate, but Boras confirmed Friday that they had spoken by phone several times this week and would have face-to-face meetings “shortly.”
Weaver, ranked by Baseball America as the player closest to the major leagues among draftees, was expected to be the top pick in last June’s draft but fell to No. 12 because many teams feared they couldn’t meet his asking price.
Weaver, younger brother of Dodger right-hander Jeff Weaver, and Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew, who was selected 15th by Arizona, remain the only unsigned first-round picks.
The market seemed to gain definition with the recent signings of Rice University pitchers Philip Humber (five-year, $5.116-million deal from the New York Mets) and Jeff Niemann (five-year, $5.2-million deal from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays), the third and fourth picks in the draft.
No. 2 pick Justin Verlander, an Old Dominion right-hander, signed a five-year, $4.5-million deal with the Detroit Tigers in October, and top pick Matt Bush, a high school shortstop, agreed to a $3.1-million bonus with the San Diego Padres last summer.
But Boras has maintained that Weaver, who went 15-1 with a 1.65 earned-run average, 201 strikeouts and 19 walks in 136 innings for Long Beach last season, was by the far the best college pitcher in the draft, a player who “could help a major league club in less than a year,” and should command a package similar to the $10.5-million deal Chicago Cub star Mark Prior got coming out of USC in 2001.
But with teams feeling pressured by Major League Baseball to hold down first-round signing bonuses, the Angels have been hesitant to go near $10 million. That, however, didn’t stop them from giving 18th-round pick Mark Trumbo, a high school infielder, $1.425 million, a record bonus for a player selected after the 10th round, or 14th-round pick Nick Adenhart, a high school pitcher who had Tommy John surgery last year, $710,000.
Boras and Stoneman are believed to be millions apart on Weaver, but at least they are talking again. And though Weaver would like to go to spring training, that’s not a hard deadline; the Angels wouldn’t lose rights to Weaver until June.
“You always want to get a deal done,” Boras said. “He wants to play baseball. But he also wants to be treated fairly.”
If left-hander Jarrod Washburn starts against Washington when the Nationals visit Anaheim June 13-15, he could have an interesting showdown with Washington outfielder Jose Guillen, the former Angel who was suspended for the last eight games of the 2004 season and the postseason for an on-field outburst and subsequent clubhouse argument with Manager Mike Scioscia.
“If I’d been there, it would have been a different situation in the playoffs,” Guillen told the San Francisco Chronicle from the Dominican Republic this week. “I know a lot of players there complained about me, but what can you do? I know who they are. Washburn is one.”
Washburn was one of a few players who spoke publicly about the Sept. 25 incident, in which Guillen fired his helmet into the dugout and his glove at the dugout wall after being removed for a pinch-runner in a key game against Oakland.
“I think everyone in here supports the decision of the manager, the general manager and the owner,” Washburn said at the time.
Guillen, who was traded to Washington in November and took anger-management classes over the winter, said Scioscia should have handled the incident differently.
“He thought I threw my helmet at him, but that’s where the batboy sits, and it didn’t even come close [to Scioscia],” Guillen said. “I went inside and said, ‘Why did Mike do that?’ And then he started screaming and shouting at me. If he’d called me to his office and talked, we would have figured it out, but instead, it was right in front of everyone.”
The Angels signed infielder Lou Merloni to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, and the 33-year-old veteran is expected to compete for a utility job.... Pitcher Greg Jones is recovering from shoulder surgery and will not attend camp.... The Angels have invited minor league right-handers Von Stertzbach and Bob Zimmerman to spring training.