By Kiley McDaniel
Scott Boras is without a doubt the highest profile agent in sports history and many of his methods are heavily debated. A few teams deal with him with no fear, some allow him to out-leverage them, others just don’t deal with him at all. That being said, until recently, he seemed to always get his clients the best deal they could have gotten.
One tactic Boras utilizes for his top-shelf talents in the draft is float a seemingly ridiculous bonus demand early. We have the rumors of the early number Boras has put on two of his top clients for the June draft and a breakdown of said methods, all after the jump…
(Pedro Alvarez photo credit: Vanderbilt University)
We’ve been told that the number Boras is floating for Vanderbilt 3B Pedro Alvarez is a $9.5 million major league deal, and for Florida prep 1B Eric Hosmer, a $7 million bonus.
At first glance, both of those numbers look at least $3 million higher than they should be. So why would Boras do this? Does he think this will get his clients more money? Doesn’t it just turn teams off to anyone he represents? Is this even news?
I’ll answer the last question first: it is news, but it probably shouldn’t be. This is exactly what Boras wants people to do, to make his demands sound outrageous and make himself a polarizing subject. He feeds off of these perceptions later. We’re merely running this story/rumors to hit a discussion on this topic and kick off draft rumor season around here.
It is worth noting at this point that other sources have heard numbers from $9.5 million up into the mid-teens for Alvarez and numbers as low as $4 million for Hosmer.
Some industry insiders suggest Boras derives these numbers from blindfolding himself and throwing darts with the names of his top talents on them at a dartboard of numbers $5 million and greater, then uses that number (and other randomly-generated numbers, depending on the situation) to teams to figure out who will pay the most. He then does whatever he has to, to steer his players to that team or teams, including throwing out an even higher number to ensure his player slips, usually to the rich teams later in the draft.
This sounds like a good strategy, if not an incredibly irritating one for everyone involved. The reason Boras doesn’t get every amateur player to go with him is three-fold: 1) he hasn’t gotten the best deal every time lately (the A-Rod press hurt him) 2) he doesn’t talk to the player/family at all between hiring him and signing the contract and 3) similar to #2, he has an enormous ego.
One key example of this ego is from this past off-season. One big league Boras client was negotiating a long-term deal and wanted to stay with his team if they offered a fair price. It has been confirmed to me by multiple sources that the team’s offer was in the range Boras and the player agreed that they would accept. So, once negotiations stalled with the offer still in the acceptable range, an independent third party told the player the offer, and the player was shocked he didn’t know of the offer and immediately accepted, and the deal was consummated in spite of Boras.
Why did the player’s agent, his employee, do this? Boras obviously either thought that he could get more, or that he’d gain something by holding his client out for longer. If you like that school of negotiating, then you might already be a Boras client. If you just wanted to stay with your team at a fair price, like this player did, this agent will just give you a headache and often not do what the player tells him to do. To some degree, the blame is on the player for not knowing what he was getting into.
Doesn’t it just turn teams off to anyone he represents? Not really, because he doesn’t do this with every client, just ones that have the leverage: top high school prospects that can go to college and elite college talents that demand “out-of-the-box” contracts. Look at Matt LaPorta and Mark Pawelek in recent years—non-elite talents with teams that bite on them in the high-end of the expected drafting range and Boras gets basically a slot deal. His service for that kind of player (he only has a few non-elite guys each draft) is to find that team.
Why does he do business this way? He gains long-term credit by throwing out crazy numbers that vary from team to team. He looks like a genius for attempting to manipulate teams in such an organized way, he shatters reasonable expectations, and teams are at least a little scared of his resources, even if they’d never admit it.
Does this really change anything? The underlying perceptions that guide the team’s negotiator are changed when dealing with Boras versus another agent. He gets better deals, despite the means, than other agents. I’d say so.
In my opinion, Rany Jazayerli summed the situation up well with this breakdown of why Rick Porcello fell in the draft. In short, Jazayerli states that Boras made Porcello slip down in the draft because he understands the game theory implications of the revised draft compensation rules. Rany is a great writer and the theory is a very thought-provoking one, but the perception that Boras is the smartest man in baseball because he gets slightly better deals than other agents is ridiculous.
He does this because he has enough money in the bank that one contract doesn’t matter to him and enough guts to holdout for longer than other agents. Although, with prime talents, a lot of agents would hold out longer than with mid-range guys. Boras is a smart guy, and has (irreparably) changed the draft in some ways, but that doesn’t make him a mad genius teams should fear.
Why are people scared of Scott Boras while simultaneously thinking he’s a genius? Because he is smart enough to 1) know that being perceived as a mad genius is an advantage and 2) make teams think he is that mad genius.
That might actually make him a genius.