Scott Boras: The Contracts. The Clients. Who’s to Blame?

Sunday July 3, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:   The man behind the billion dollar smile, Scott Boras is a big business.  The Boras Corporation represents close to 200 MLB players.  This is one of the most influential, if not important people in baseball today.  But the man is categorized in many baseball circles as “the devil”, for “forcing” major league teams to dish out excessively large contracts to his clients.  Is this really the case?  Is Boras bad for baseball or simply a man who knows how to do his job and do it well?  Let’s take an inside look at Scott Boras and search behind the contracts. 

We took a look yesterday at Randy “Macho Man” Savage, an athlete that aside from being a wrestling superstar, was a baseball player.  On the same token, Scott Boras the agent, was at one point Scott Boras the baseball player as well.  Here are the numbers that Boras put up in four minor league seasons in the Cardinals and Cubs organizations:

 

Year Lev AB R HR RBI BA OBP SLG
1974 Rk 95 13 0 10 .274 .402 .347
1975 A 300 39 2 36 .277 .402 .373
1976 A 437   2   .295   .387
1977 AA-A 343 54 1 33 .292 .392 .367
1977 A 78 17 0 7 .346 .440 .423
1977 AA 265 37 1 26 .275 .377 .351
1977 AA              
1977 AA              
4 Seasons   1175 106 5 79 .288 .363 .374
A (3 seasons) A 815 56 4 43 .293 .354 .385
AA (1 season) AA 265 37 1 26 .275 .377 .351
Rk (1 season) Rk 95 13 0 10 .274 .402 .347

 

A man ahead of his time, Boras was one of the original moneyball players.  For his career, Boras had 133 walks and only 76 strikeouts.  Those numbers were for good for a lifetime .363 OBP, to go along with his .288 AVG.  Knee injuries unfortunately cut his career short and Boras only made it as high as AA ball.  With the baseball experience under his belt, Boras went on to practice law and from there become a full-time baseball agent in the early 1980s.  Imagine if the 58-year old Scott Boras had made it to the majors and had played for 10+  years.  He would have been playing well into the 1980s, when his agent career took off.  But alas, Randy Poffo the wrestler became Randy Savage the baseball player.  Scott Boras the baseball player became a player agent.  Certain things are meant to be and some roles seem to be predestined.  But it is still fun to think what could have been and had Boras been able to continue in for professional baseball as a player for many seasons, Scott Boras the agent might have never come into existence.

The exploits of Scott Boras as an agent are legendary.   From the Bill Caudill contract with the Jays, Todd Van Poppel deal, J.D. Drew refusing to sign with the Phillies, the Alex Rodriguez contract, Darren Dreifort contract, negotiations for Stephen Strasburg and Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boras has done it all and seen it all.  Let’s take a peak at 10 of the biggest contracts negotiated by Boras:

10. Adrian Beltre, Seattle Mariners: 5 years, $64 million

9. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox: 6 years, $52 million

8. Kevin Millwood, Texas Rangers: 5 years, $60 million

7. Carlos Beltran, New York Mets: 7 years, $119 million

6. Kevin Brown, Los Angeles Dodgers: 7 years, $105 million

5.Matt White, Tampa Bay Devil Rays: $10.2 million bonus

4. Andruw Jones, Los Angeles Dodgers: 2 years, $36.2 million

3. Chan Ho Park, Texas Rangers: 5 years, $65 million

2. Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants: 7 years, $126 million

1. Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers: 10 years, $252 million

 

The list literally goes on and on.  Boras Corporation has negotiated contracts well over a billion dollars in my estimation and the number keeps rising by the day.  We can pick any contracts negotiated by Boras for review, but these ten deals are particularly interesting ones.  What do these contracts all have in common?  Firstly, they are for very large dollar amounts and very often far exceed what most experts predicted for each particular player.  Secondly, none of the teams that signed their respective deal appeared to have benefited from the deal.  In the sense that I would argue each team on this list had buyer’s remorse and would take back the contract if given the chance.  Lastly, all of these contracts were negotiated and signed by Scott Boras and each respective major league team owner and general manager.  It takes two to tango and in this case, sometimes three or four parties.  For as much as teams and fans want to burn Scott Boras at the stake for destroying baseball, these contracts were signed by the free will of each team. Furthermore, each team pursued their respective players and courted them to accept a contract and join their team.  At some point, MLB teams need to look at the mirror if they want to change the economic landscape of the game and stop blaming Scott Boras and the player agents of this world. 

An agent’s job is to land the biggest contract for his or her client.  A team’s job is to field the most competitive team at the most economical price.  When a player turns out to be a bust or financial albatross, it is the team that did not do their job.  The baseball world fell over when Jayson Werth signed his seven-year, $126 million contract.  The blame fell to Scott Boras for the most part for extorting such a large figure out of the Washington Nationals.  Why?  Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals organization are all big boys that can make their own decisions.  Without seemingly any strong bidders against them, the Nationals literally outbid themselves in handing Werth such a lucrative and absurd contract.  Most analysts, myself included, felt that this contract could only end up failing the Nationals.  Werth as an injury prone player without a proven track record was going to likely have a hard time justifying his deal.  But don’t blame the player or agent. No, they did their job in the process.  It is the team that needs to take responsibility for its actions.  An important lesson in life is to learn from one’s mistakes.  But teams keep making the same financial blunders, over and over when it comes to player contracts.  That is not the fault of Scott Boras.  It is the teams.

When free agency opens up each offseason, I compare the winter meetings to children being handed large wads of money and being thrown into a candy store.  They cannot control themselves and have to buy more and more to satisfy their hungers.  As it is not the children to blame when they are spoiled, it is really not the General Managers either when they have large spending budgets.  As parents need to take responsibility for their children, team owners need to account for their General Managers.  The large contracts that are handed out every year must be approved by each team owner beforehand.  Thus the way a child comes to ask for a $500 remote control car, a General Manager will ask for a $126 million Werth.  When the parent and team owner both say yes, they only have themselves to blame.  The toy and player inevitably break down or are seen as too expensive in hindsight.  But by then, the toy cannot be returned to the store and the player contract cannot be voided.  The lesson is to learn from the experience and to avoid similar mistakes in the future.  But teams refuse to listen and learn and as a result, player contracts in baseball are exploding with no end in sight.

Let’s keep Scott Boras in perspective.  The man does his job very well and pushes the limit of player contracts in baseball.  He might be a very intelligent person and a great salesperson.  But at the end of the day, he is simply doing his job.  For myself as a consumer, if I buy a brand new car for $30,000 when I could have bought a similar model down the road for $10,000 less, I cannot blame the car dealer or its salesperson.  It was up to me as the consumer to shop around and get the best deal I could.  There would have been other cars, the same way for MLB teams there will always be other players. But teams don’t see it that way.  They get caught up in the negotiations and the thrill of the hunt and get determined to land their “guy”.  The Red Sox begged and pleaded to get Dice-K into a Red Sox uniform.  The same Sox and Yankees battled it out to land Mark Teixeira.  The Texas Rangers and then owner Tom Hicks literally handed Alex Rodriguez a blank cheque to land the marquee free agent.  Again and again, MLB teams go out of their way to land the players they want and end up blaming the players and their agent when the contracts do not work out. 

One man I will give credit to is Fred Wilpon.  In criticizing the Carlos Beltran contract, he blamed the team for overpaying the outfielder based on one good playoff run.  This is a man who at the very least took responsibility for his actions and knew where to lay the blame.  Since the Beltran deal, the Mets, along with the Braves and Angels, are three teams that tend to stay away from dealing with Scott Boras and the players he represents.  That is ultimately the best approach and the only way that any order can be established.  If teams do not want to dish the money, all they have to say is no.  But as long as the money is there and being handed out by the teams by the truck loads, Scott Boras will be there with open arms, negotiating the best contracts for his clients that he can.

Scott Boras has accomplished some amazing feats during his agent career.  From changing the rules on arbitration and free agency, Boras pushes the boundaries and finds all the loopholes to change the economic system of the game.  The sign of a great lawyer, negotiator and agent.  Before fans are quick to condemn the man, lets step back and appreciate what he has accomplished.  Scott Boras and the Boras Corporation are a billion dollar industry.  They provide marketing services, training facilities for their clients and look after their clients every needs.  Boras has a team of experts that are constantly studying and keeping track of the game.  Scott Boras stays on top of the game and thus is able to stay competitive and negotiate the best contracts for his clients.  While not everyone agrees with his methods, particularly the Alex Rodriguez opt-out with the Yankees which led A-Rod to leave Boras, he may have the ideas, but it is up to players to accept them and teams to listen.  As long as players keep lining up to hire Scott Boras and teams await with open arms and wallets, the system will not change.  Scott Boras may be a lot of things, but the devil he is certainly not.  He is simply a smart, hard worker who does his job well at levels that few can attain.  A baseball pioneer, Scott Boras has certainly left his mark on the game.  While many fans and teams do not agree with his methods, at the end of the day he gets the job done.  Scott Boras:  Genius or madness?  You decide.

 

Please see the list below of some of the clients in the Scott Boras stable.  The list is growing by the day:

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Posted on July 3, 2011, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. William J. Tasker

    Well thought out piece. No, Boras isn’t the Antichrist. Enjoyed this.

    • Thank you William. I have been looking forward to writing a piece on Boras for some time. A series of novels can be written on the man and this is a glimpse.

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