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Friday, July 02, 2004

Boras Licks His Chops

More and more I'm convinced that Stoneman has had very little to do with the players the team has acquired this year. No, the real driver is Arte Moreno, and that's not necessarily a good thing: he seems to be making a habit of buying every successful name brand out there without first asking whether he's worth the obscene dollars Arte's throwing at him, El Ladrón being the prime example. It's like paying $40,000 for a Hyundai despite the $20,000 sticker: overpaying doesn't make the car any better. It's not to say Arte's acquisitions have all been bad: Escobar, despite his recent struggles, has been what he was advertised to be: a quality 3-4 starter. Likewise for Jose Guillen. And of course Vlad's performance is unimpeachable. Arte seems to want to run the Angels after the same plan Steinbrenner runs the Yankees, one where the GM is largely an afterthought. My question is, would Stoneman have pursued Colón in the absence of that kind of pressure?

Regardless, the next challenge the team faces is Arte's first draft, and no player is in for longer and more unpleasant negotiations than first-round pick Jered Weaver. Widely thought to be a lock for the Padres, he fell to the Angels after "agent" Scott Boras -- for he is not allowed to negotiate for amateur players, though he can act as an "advisor" -- let slip his vision of a $10M signing bonus for his young charge. Steve Bischeff in the Register thinks Boras has Arte lassoed:

"We made the decision this is the guy we wanted to draft for our team," Moreno said. "He's a local guy, a great player. We're excited about him. I'm real confident we can sign him. I think it's important for us."

Moreno paused and smiled.

"There I go putting myself in a box again," he said.

Indeed, there he goes. Will Jered be worth it? A lot of ink has been spilled over this one. One camp believes he's nothing better than a number three or four pitcher, a guy who reached his potential early. One of those is Baseball America's Jim Callis, who said in a March interview
Weaver is very good, but his numbers are so unfathomable that I think he's getting overrated by the general public. I'd project him as more of a No. 2 starter than as a classic No. 1, and he's not the next Mark Prior. Both his fastball and breaking ball are a half-grade or full grade behind where Prior's were when he came out of Southern California. Weaver throws an 88-94 mph fastball with lots of life, but his low three-quarters arm slot has led to debate about how much of weapon his slider will be against big league lefthanders. Weaver's fastball would rate a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale, with his slider and changeup 50 pitches. His command is so good that his stuff plays better than its raw grades.
Likewise, ESPN's Jayson Stark laughed at comparisons between Weaver and Mark Prior. So it's not just major league GMs with very real negotiating positions to support who're disparaging Weaver.

Contrariwise, one of Weaver's biggest boosters has been all-baseball.com's Rich Lederer; back on May 23, he wrote a lyric ode to the Dirtbag ace:

I have been impressed not only with Weaver’s power and command but also his makeup. He has the guile, guts, and determination that makes him a special talent. When Jered has his best stuff, he simply dominates Division I hitters. When he isn’t on top of his game, he still finds a way to beat the opponent with a mound presence rare for any pitcher—much less a 21-year-old.

Weaver can reach back and rise to the occasion when needed. On Friday night, the youngster who wears the number 36 on his back stranded four Titans at third base, getting out of minor jams with a popup in the first inning, a soft lineout in the second, two strikeouts in the sixth, and three punchouts to end the eighth.

The hard-throwing Weaver has a knack for challenging left-handed hitters inside in a manner that reminds me of a young Frank Tanana, a lefty who could bust a fastball on the hands of right-handed batters as well as anyone I’ve ever seen during his heyday in the 1970s. And to think that Weaver is doing so against hitters with aluminum bats says a lot about his confidence.

Two points of view, radically different. Which one is right? And will this $10M gamble -- assuming it gets that high -- actually pay off? The answer, obviously, is that I don't know, but however it works out, remember one thing: Boras wants his bonus.

I don't see how calling a guy a "number two" with stuff that's slightly below Mark Prior is disparaging. Obviously there’s no such thing as a lock, but Weaver is pretty close. Weaver was the best player on the board when the Angels picked (if not the best on the board period), and Moreno has the money to sign him, so what’s the argument about? If he’s overpaid, he’s overpaid- it’s not going to put Arte in the poorhouse or even preclude him from spending again. It’s just not a big deal.
Richard, it's a big deal. Ask Peter Angelos, a man with an enormous fortune, just how much money he wants to pump into his team. Given how much Arte's driven the offseason acquisitions, don't you think it's a little interesting, given the way certain players haven't performed, that there will be no midseason pickups? Stoneman's comment that "you don't need to do something" when the team picked up so many guys in the offseason -- well, given how much Arte had to say with the lineup, is that Arte talking? Is it also a sign we can expect no help in the 2004/5 offseason as well? I think it might be.
I think their unwillingness to make a move is more a sign of stupidity then anything else. Stoneman, Moreno, and Scioscia honestly believe that guys like Erstad and Eckstein are stars, so they can’t see where they can improve this team. I think you’re right when you said that Arte has an obsession with “name brands”- well, this team is filled with name brands. Every position has a guy that (in the mind of management) is a star. They might not be producing like stars, but they know that they are. It’s the sentimentality problem again.

And isn’t Moreno’s willingness to draft a guy like Weaver, outrageous bonus demands and all, a sign that he’s still willing to splash the cash? I’m not worried in the slightest.
Well, the obvious rejoinder to that is, "Now."

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