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Scott Boras allegedly loaned Dominican players money. Is this a problem?

Nov 23, 2010, 7:26 AM EDT

Boras sulking AP

The New York Times is reporting that Scott Boras, possibly in violation of MLBPA rules, made loans to Dominican prospects “raising questions” about whether his company “exploited the prospects.”  A spokesman for Major League Baseball said that “this is a serious issue that raises concerns about the business practices of agents who have played a prominent role in the game.”

The article outlines a loan Boras made to Braves’ shortstop prospect Edward Salcedo, to whom Boras made a $70,000 loan prior to his getting a $1.6 million bonus. At the time, Salcedo was seen as damaged goods, as an earlier deal had fallen through with the Indians because he turned out to be older than he previously said he was. Boras made the loan, the report says, time passed, during which a third party — trainer Edgar Mercedes — helped resolve the age issue — and then Salcedo signed his deal with the Braves. Boras then demanded repayment of the loan. Salcedo is still represented by Boras, even though Mercedes tried to get him to sign with a different agent. The loan has still not been paid back.

I get the potential seriousness of an agent giving big money loans to poor Dominican prospects: there is a potential for exploitation if the agent uses the leverage of the loan to coerce the player or to limit choices. Like any dealings with teenage athletes and their families, there are a number of sensible reasons to have rules in place regarding such transactions, regulating them, and requiring some sort of approval process or oversight to ensure that no one is being taken advantage of.  And, according to the report, the MLBPA apparently does have such rules.

But even if Boras violated these rules in the Salcedo case, I’m not seeing any evidence in this article that (a) anyone was taken advantage of; or (b) anyone was actually harmed.  Salcedo was hard-up. Boras loaned him money. Salcedo signed with the Braves. Boras asked for the money back. In the interim another person did some work that perhaps Boras should have been doing (i.e. helping resolve the age issue).  Again, this all may have been in violation of MLBPA rules, and if so, that’s serious in and of itself, but the article tries hard to cast this as an exploitation piece, and I just don’t see how, in this particular case, the loan to a prospect was exploitative in any way.

Indeed, the only hint at that that there was pressure of any kind comes in the last paragraph of the article, where it is suggested that Salcedo felt obligated to stay with Boras as a result of the loan. But that part is all based on quotes from that trainer, Edgar Mercedes, who is affiliated with another agent who wanted to snag Salcedo for himself.  That’s not exactly a damning indictment. And the fact that Salcedo continues to be represented by Boras despite the ability to fire him if he wanted to and having the financial means to easily repay the loan if he so chose, cuts against the notion that he is somehow shackled to Boras as a result of an overreach by the agent.

Could there be a problem here? Absolutely. If Boras has broken union rules regarding loans, that’s bad and should be investigated and punished if the allegation is borne out. But this piece was not written simply to highlight a potential violation of union rules. It was designed to be of a piece with the authors’ last article, regarding U.S. investors making money off of Dominican players by setting up training academies, casting it all into a “U.S. Baseball Exploits Dominican Kids” narrative.  While I said before that I believe there are serious problems with the training academies — i.e. in those cases, unlike Major League Baseball and even agents like Boras, the investors have no incentive to look after kids’ welfare after the signing bonus is paid —  this Boras story does not fit the narrative that the Times is trying to create. This merely points out a possibly troublesome  incident and even then doesn’t establish that anything untoward occurred.

So, unless and until we learn more, I’m not going to get too worked up by this. Just because kids in the Dominican Republic are involved does not mean they are being exploited. Just because Scott Boras is involved does not mean something bad is happening. We need to know more before getting out the torches and pitchforks.

  1. paperlions - Nov 23, 2010 at 7:37 AM

    So….agents are not allowed to loan prospects money as it may be used as leverage to limit the players choices….but the draft that limits a players choices to one team, thereby killing nearly all of his bargaining leverage, is okay?

    Hypocrisy much?

  2. joshfrancis50 - Nov 23, 2010 at 7:55 AM

    There’s nothing to indicate that Boras has a certain benevolence about him to help the poor. I’m not saying that he should or should not be allowed to make a loan like he did, but to think he did it for any reason other than to curry favor with a potential client is naive, stupid, or both.

    • elibolender - Nov 23, 2010 at 2:28 PM

      Solid strawman. Good work.

  3. Jonny 5 - Nov 23, 2010 at 8:08 AM

    Boras doing whatever he can to make more $$$. That’s all this is. But really If anyone was taken advantage of it’s the guy who never got paid back for his loan. I’m sure all will be forgotten though if this kid continues to make boras $$$. 70 grand is alot of loot in the dominican wth did he need that for anyway?

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 23, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    Definitely agree with Craig here, in that there’s the potential for abuse, but I don’t see any in this case. However, what’s the difference between this and what the NFL agents do for their players? in ’01, Will Allen, drafted by the giants, was robbed of over $100K in jewelry before he even signed a contract. His agent had loaned him money which, come to find out, is stand practice for most first round players.

  5. Jason @ IIATMS - Nov 23, 2010 at 8:59 AM

    It was a once-in-a generation loan

    The loan profiled like Sandy Koufax during the first four years of the term

    There was a mystery lender involved

    The loan has transcendent intangibles

  6. Old Gator - Nov 23, 2010 at 9:41 AM

    I’d accept money from Scott Boras. Lots of it.

    As long as he didn’t want it back.

  7. bigdicktater - Nov 23, 2010 at 6:55 PM

    Good ‘un, OG!

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