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To Scott Boras, the free agent market is a one way street

Dec 21, 2009, 8:57 AM EDT

A revealing quote from Scott Boras in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  When asked about the timetable for Matt Holliday signing somewhere:

“The acquisition of a franchise talent is not about a wristwatch. That’s about all I can tell you. It’s not a
particular time. It’s about the club recognizing the benefit of having
that player and how they’ll be dramatically impacted by the loss of
that player. When that realization takes place, when there is recognition of the
player’s place in the market, then you have an

Note the lack of any comment about the player recognizing the benefit of playing for any particular club. No realization on the part of the player about his place in the market.  No mention on what happens if the club fails to agree with Boras’ assessment of where that place really is, in which case his client could be left out in the cold.  How long will Johnny Damon be waiting?  If the Cardinals follow through on their earlier statements about wanting to have some certainty on Holliday one way or the other by Christmas, how long will he be waiting?

Of course you can’t argue with the historical effectiveness of such an approach.
In the aggregate, Boras has been wildly successful by advancing this
teams-come-to-the-player philosophy.  Indeed, Boras’ approach has fundamentally changed the free agent market, and he almost always reaches a near top-of-the-market deal.

But in recent years the free agent market seems to have changed itself.  Will Boras adapt? Or will he, as Bill Madden of the New York Daily News thinks, end up leaving his two biggest free agent clients scrambling for work as spring training approaches?

  1. YankeesfanLen - Dec 21, 2009 at 9:16 AM

    Sooner or later, the worm turns. Boras seems to have less and less respect for teams and players and continues to play his formulatic games to what may now turn into less than stellar results to everyone but him.
    Would still like Damon to return and refute his allegiance to third party negotiations. As for Holliday, Boras may well get him a few bucks more than the Cards want to pay, and in this case may have done his job. The track record is getting dim, however.

  2. Bill - Dec 21, 2009 at 9:38 AM

    It worked with Manny last off-season.

  3. Beanster - Dec 21, 2009 at 9:38 AM

    Arte Moreno has clearly tired of playing Boras’ game, and I’m still stunned and impressed by the Yanks sticking to their guns (so far) with Damon. Suddenly Boras’ tactics and leverage look a lot less compelling.

  4. Jack Marshall - Dec 21, 2009 at 10:15 AM

    Craig, Boras is clearly not representing his clients’ best interests; rather he is effective at misleading them about what their best interests are. He’s not alone among attorneys in doing this, but it is unethical, and it’s good that you call him on it.
    By focusing only on maximizing the price a team has to pay and making the player use that as the sole measurement of his interests,
    Boras makes his own enrichment the #1 even when he knows that a player would be happier making a few million dollars less in a better environment. I don’t know who would be motivated to explain this to the players. Teams would have no credibility; the players union sees its goal as maximizing every player’s income, helping the full membership even when an individual player’s interests (happiness, the comfort of his family, lifetime statistics) have to be sacrificed. Most of the players are ill-equipped to balance non-economic factors into the mix, which is exactly what an agent/ advisor/ lawyer is supposed to do.
    The difference in quality of life between a 120 million dollar contract and a 90 million dollar contract is negligible, but it’s not negligible to Boras. He has a conflict of interest (several, actually) and it harms the players…not to mention their families, cities, teams and the game. And I have no idea what can be done about it. Calling him on it, however, is a good start.

  5. APBA Guy - Dec 21, 2009 at 11:35 AM

    I think Boras is incredibly disciplined in his approach and that discipline has been reinforced by results over time. His statement quoted in the post about “franchise talent” in reference to Holliday ignores three salient points:
    1) The Cards already have Pujols. Is there a better definition of “franchise player” than Pujols?
    2) Holliday’s less than stellar performance in the AL last year, .838 OPS.
    3) At the end of the long term deal Boras wants Holliday will be old. His mobility is already in decline.
    Jason Bay hit AL pitching very well last year (.921 OPS), Holliday was more middling (.838). His NL home/road while at Colorado were substantial, though not terrible , but his road OPS was not “franchise” level during that tenure: .759-891, though he improved each year.
    As we’ve noticed, GM’s are getting smarter. They see numbers like that, they think twice about Texeira type contracts.
    But Boras knows it only takes 1, 1 GM who’s worried about his job or fan reactions, etc. That one guy shuts his eyes, ignores the numbers and takes the plunge. And presto, Boras has his next $ 100M contract and we have our next “bad contract” to talk about.
    Which GM’s fit that description today and have the budget for a big deal? Omar, and who else?

  6. Conor - Dec 21, 2009 at 12:00 PM

    While I agree that Boras, like other agents has a huge conflict of interest in representing players seeking the same employment (e.g. Damen/Holliday, I think it’s unfair to make a judgment based on pure speculation. How do we know that Boras sacrifices a players interests solely in the pursuit of money. The conversation between Boras and the player about what excactly the player’s interests are happens in private. Furthermore, it’s really not the kind of thing you want public. For example, last year Texeira presumably preferred the Yankees above all other teams – primarily because his wife wanted New York. Now if that becomes public, the Yankees know they can match any other offer dollar-for-dollar and Tex would choose them. They could even roll the dice and see if they could get a discount. In this instance, it’s Boras job to get as much money for his client from the place he wants to be: New York. In order to do that, he needs to keep up the pretense of indecision.
    For all we know, Holliday has told Boras that he loved his time in St. Louis and that there is nowhere else he would rather play. Now if meets with the St. Louis brass with that attitude he is in no position to realize his full earning potential in St. Louis. Frankly, I think Boras must take into account his clients’ interests other than money. But then he is masterful at meeting those interests while maximizing the payout. And really, that’s the job of an agent.

  7. Jack Marshall - Dec 21, 2009 at 12:10 PM

    Conor: you are right; I don’t know what Boras tells his clients. But since we know, do we not, that if players really were being advised regarding their best interests, we would hear of more than a handful who say, “You know what? I like this team and this city—I make plenty of money; my kids are provided for even if they became quads tomorrow. Here’s the deal, Scott: do whatever it takes to get me a contract with THIS TEAM.” It’s happened with non-Boras clients: Roy Halladay just gave up more bucks. Would he have done that if Boras was his agent? Would Boras be whispering, “You’re a fool, Roy. Always go for the dollars.” OK, then maybe players who have their values in line and their heads on straight don’t use Boras. But if he gets only dumb, unsophisticated players who only care about the numbers rather than what they mean to their future happiness and welfare, then those clients need MORE balanced advice, not less.

  8. Daniel Millions - Feb 8, 2010 at 9:29 PM

    Some people think that the search engines has started to discount link directories. I agree with them to a certain extent. Google has discounted the “fly by night” link directory that is out to make a quick buck. There are however many web directories that provide a strong one way backlink imho.

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