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Scott Boras is all for 12-year contracts

Aug 28, 2013, 9:18 AM EDT

Boras thinking

Scott Boras, when asked about the idea of signing guys for short contracts that cover their arbitration years:

“I’m more into 12-year deals for young players,” Boras replied. “The M.O. is, you want to keep them in the franchise, and you want to be there for the fans and be a marquee for them. So why not?”

Of course Boras is going to be for massive deals because he’s Scott Boras. And of course you’re going to mock him because you love to mock Scott Boras. But go read Adam Kilgore’s article and listen to what else Boras has to say on the matter. And you realize that he makes sense.

No, most players aren’t worth that deal. Heck, no player may be worth the risk of a deal that long. But the underlying idea — that smart teams find ways to move away from what the pack is doing and that it’s probably better for teams to find ways to lock up a core of several players rather than just one or two superstars — and you can almost see the sense in giving, say, Bryce Harper or Mike Trout a deal that takes them into their 30s.

Boras says a lot of audacious things. But audacious doesn’t mean crazy. And, in a lot of ways, Boras got where he is by being willing to be audacious.

  1. jarathen - Aug 28, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    Harper and Trout should be locked up for as long as possible. There’s inherent risk there, but what’s worse – a guy who will be 33-35 when a contract is done paying $300 million, or a guy who is past 40 and drawing $26 million a year?

    I’m sure Arte Moreno can answer that.

    • stoutfiles - Aug 28, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      I personally can’t think of a pricey contract longer than 7 years that has ever worked in the teams favor. Players get injured and players get lazy when they’re getting paid regardless of performance.

      • jarathen - Aug 28, 2013 at 9:58 AM

        Part of that is the age of players who sign these contracts. Signing a player with their first year being 26 or 27 in a best case scenario, and usually starting at 29-31, is setting everyone up for disappointment.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        I personally can’t think of a pricey contract longer than 7 years that has ever worked in the teams favor.</blockquote.

        Arod's first deal, Jeter's 10 year deal, Mussina's deal with the Yankees, Manny's deal with Bos to name a few.

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:29 PM

        Church

        Mussina’s deal with the Yanks was only for 6 yrs. The poster said for longer than 7 yrs, which you quoted in your reply to him.

        Moose’s 6 yr contract isn’t longer than 7 yrs, meaning 8 or 9 yrs etc…

        Manny Ramirez’s 8 yr contract with the Red Sox worked out well for the team overall, so you’re right about that, even though his tenure there ended badly.

        Jeter’s 10 yr contract with the Yanks was OK. Yes, Jeter is a HOF and played well and the Yanks don’t regret that 10 yr deal with him but he did bat below his career batting average in 6 of the 10 yrs during that contract. His OPS+ was below his career average in 4 of the 10 seasons etc…

        Again, he didn’t play poorly and the Yanks don’t regret the contract but he didn’t over play his contract by leaps and bounds the way Albert Pujols outplayed his 7 yr deal for $100 million with the Cardinals. Yes, this wasn’t longer than a 7 yr deal either I know but Pujols performed so much better than his contract that it wasn’t even funny. The Cardinals made out like bandits…

      • badintent - Aug 29, 2013 at 6:00 PM

        I’m all in for a 12 year jail time for Boras for being Boras.

    • cohnjusack - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:17 AM

      Let’s compare Mike Trout to the other greatest players at age 20. If Trout aged like them and signed a 12 year extension tomorrow, would it be worth it?

      To ten in WAR through age 21:
      1. Mike Trout (holy shit!)
      2. Mel Ott (MVP Caliber player nearly every season until age 33. Worth it!)
      3. Ty Cobb (MVP caliber until age 35. Worth it!)
      4. Al Kaline (sometimes MVP caliber, always all-star worthy until age 36. Worth it!)
      5. Rogers Hornsby (among small handful of greatest hitters in baseball history until age 33. Worth it!)
      6. Ken Griffey Jr (consistent MVP candidate until constant injuries around age 30. Last 3 years wouldn’t be so hot, but not a bad deal)
      7. Jimmie Foxx (MVP caliber until age 32. Worth it!)
      8. Ted Williams (meh, this dude sucked)
      9. Mickey Mantle (pretty good, I suppose…)
      10. Alex Rodriguez (MVP caliber until 32)

      So, of the top 10 players through age 21, not a single team would have been cringing over giving them a 12 year extension at a very young age.

      Unfortunately, the same does not go for young pitchers. That list includes Dwight Gooden (101 ERA+ after age 21 season), Fernando Valenzuela, Gary Nolan and Mike McCormick.

      • jarathen - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:26 AM

        Players can and do break down for a variety of reasons (Sizemore, Baldelli), but the risk is dramatically reduced for position players.

      • rbj1 - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:29 AM

        Mark Fidrych would have loved a 12 year contract.

      • lightcleric - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:07 AM

        I think very young non-pitcher players are the only players this should ever even be discussed for, but 12 years is a ridiculous amount of time to be tied to someone. There’s that inherent risk that over the course of almost 2,000 games in the course of that contract that something could either go very, very wrong injury-wise or the player could simply end up declining much earlier that expected.

        I wouldn’t call it insane and you make a good case for it, but I think it’s an enormous risk no matter how you slice it. Maybe I’m just risk-averse.

      • stabonerichard - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:00 PM

        Yeah, for the elite talents I think it makes a ton of sense to lock those guys up early, and for a long time. Obviously prospect flame out a scary rate, so this would have to be limited to the handful of truly elite prospects who are as can’t-miss as it’s gonna get — the Mauers, Trouts, Harpers & guys like that.

        Let’s look at Mauer. He’s currently signed thru 2018, which will be his age-35 season & 14th full year in the bigs. Over those 14 seasons, the Twins will have paid him a total of ~$220M, or an average of $15-16M per year.

        So what if the Twins had offered him a 12-year deal from the get-go. The hometown, multi-sport star, who was drafted #1 overall… offer him 12 years at $12M per. Today you might say, “Nah, 12 million wouldn’t have gotten it done…that figure is too low.” But I disagree. The other advantage of locking in these deals early is avoiding the inevitable inflation. Back in 2005–Mauer’s first full season–that figure would have seemed larger. For example, in 2005 Mike Piazza earned $16M which was his highest annual salary during his career as arguably the greatest catcher in baseball history. That’s the same year Beltran signed his $119M deal that most scoffed at. So again, I believe a 12x$12 deal totaling nearly $150M would have locked up Mauer and been a solid deal all around.

        Had they done that, they would have paid Mauer ~$3.5M less per season compared to what they’re actually paying him (or $40M over the course of 12 years), and the Twins wouldn’t necessarily have been tied up beyond Mauer’s early 30s. As things stand now, they’ll pay him $23M per for his age 34 & 35 years, which could end up pretty ugly. So anyways, this is obviously just one example but it’s a concept that’s certainly worth at least considering. I totally get risk aversion, but ya gotta realize it can cut both ways.

    • chip56 - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:44 AM

      Just because you don’t lock someone up to a 12 year deal when they’re 21 doesn’t mean you’re obliged to give them a stupid contract when they hit 33 that pays for the back end of their careers.

      Take Robinson Cano as a perfect example. He’ll be 31 for his next contract. Any team that signs him is paying for 3 years of productivity and then 4 or more years of decline. But there’s no rule that says teams have to give him that kind of contract.

  2. thomas844 - Aug 28, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    What next, Scott? Are you going to find a young, Yasiel Puig-type player and start the 20-year contract someday?

  3. jwbiii - Aug 28, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Of course he is. Finding teams for free agents and negotiating their contracts is hard work. Boras wants to do that work less often.

  4. southpaw2k - Aug 28, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    Of course you are, Scott. Of course you are.

    More money and longer term contracts are great for the players and great for their agents, but a VERY high risk for the teams. And really, we’re talking about maybe 5 players in all of baseball who could even be considered to deserve such an extremely long deal. How in the world is that a good idea?

  5. dondada10 - Aug 28, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Didn’t the Rays buy-out ~12 years of Evan Longoria’s free-agency?

    • chip56 - Aug 28, 2013 at 9:54 AM

      Not all at once.

      • dondada10 - Aug 28, 2013 at 9:57 AM

        But they did.

      • chip56 - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:45 AM

        Yes, but they protected themselves as much as possible by spreading it out – gave him some guaranteed years, he didn’t suffer a debilitating injury so they gave him more.

  6. dowhatifeellike - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    I still like 5-6 year deals better. Sure, it might cost a team more in the long run, but after 5 years you can reevaluate a guy and decide if you really want him for 5 more.

    It’s still true that the average hitter peaks at 28 and is already in decline at 30. If someone wants to snatch up a superstar from my team at 29 and sign him for 10+ years, they can have him. Let the other teams mortgage their future.

    Of course, all of this would be moot if contracts weren’t guaranteed.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:52 AM

      If contracts weren’t guaranteed, the annual average value would skyrocket.

      • dowhatifeellike - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:52 PM

        For players in their prime, sure– they’d be earning what their production is actually worth at the time. The big contracts are basically back-loaded deals with extra years added on just to retain control of the player. It’s mortgaging the future. Pay someone what they’re worth when they’re worth it and the problem goes away. Older players will be paid less (not more), as they decline and it will begin to balance out.

        I’m sure if you asked the Yankees if they would have preferred to pay Arod and Jeter more up front for the ability to cut them later with no obligation, they’d be all over it. Same with the Pujols deal.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:00 PM

        And if the Yankees could get out of the A-Rod, Teixeira, Sabathia, etc., deals do you think they’d sit on the money they saved? No, they’d scoop up every free agent they could.

        Guaranteed contracts are the only thing that handcuffs the Yankees (and Dodgers). Fans of other teams should be thankful for them.

  7. Jonny 5 - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    He’s not in the business of making teams better, only in it to extract as much from teams pocketbooks as he can for as long as he can. 12 year contracts = much less work & much more money.

  8. jeffbbf - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    I used to hate Boras – I thought he was ruining baseball by milking so much money out of the owners. Now, I realize he may be the best/smartest person in the room when it comes to these things. He almost always wins. He works his ass off, brings truckloads of data into negotiations, and always seems to get the owners to blink. Remember that crap about ARod being worth the money with Texas because he was going to increase attendance well beyond the value of his contract? And they bought it! Not to mention Boras had Texas negotiating against a phantom team. Brilliant! Very simply, Boras, in almost every case, is smarter than the people he is negotiating with. Now, he’ll be trying to convince owners to sign young players to 12-15 year contracts. I can’t wait to see if he’s successful.

    • Alex K - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      What a lot of people don’t want to admit is that the first A-Rod 10 year deal wasn’t a bad contract. He was worth every penny of that deal for the 7 years it lasted.

      • danaking - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:07 AM

        Maybe it was worth it if your assessment is based solely on A-Rod’s numbers, but paying him gutted the Rangers’ ability to pay for enough good players to make them a contender.

      • Alex K - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:59 AM

        In 2002 & 2003 the Rangers payroll was over $100 million (according to Cot’s). In those years he was making $22 million (per Fangraphs). I think it’s a stretch to say that the Rangers were unable to pay good players to put around him. I think the Ranger’s just paid the wrong people to go around him.

        For background here is the payroll for the Rangers from the yea before A-Rod signed to his last year there (per Cot’s):

        2003: $103,491,667
        2002: $105,726,122
        2001: $ 87,819,000
        2000: $ 70,900,000

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        Maybe it was worth it if your assessment is based solely on A-Rod’s numbers, but paying him gutted the Rangers’ ability to pay for enough good players to make them a contender.

        No it didn’t. Now linking this for at least the third time:

        The Rangers, on the other hand, paid Kenny Rogers and Darren Oliver a combined $14.5 million for a whopping +2.7 WAR, and that’s a generous assessment based on their FIP, as they each posted an ERA over 6.00 that year. They also gave Andres Galarraga $6 million for -0.1 WAR, Rusty Greer got $4.6 million for +0.1 WAR, and Ken Caminiti got $3.5 million for +0.1 WAR. The Rangers essentially flushed a huge chunk of their payroll down the drain on players who produced around replacement level, and I cannot come up with any rational way to blame that on Rodriguez.

        In 2002, they sought to make some drastic changes to their roster, and in the process, raised their team payroll to $105 million, third highest in Major League Baseball. They gave Juan Gonzalez a two year, $24 million deal to return to the Rangers and try to recapture his past glory. They gave Chan Ho Park a five year, $65 million contract to try and fix their pitching problems. They traded Darren Oliver to Boston, and in exchange, they took on the remaining $17 million left on the final two years of Carl Everett‘s contract. They brought in John Rocker to try and stabilize the bullpen.

        None of it worked. Those four big splash acquisitions combined for a total of +2.2 WAR, and the team was once again remarkably bad. The Rangers had simply invested in lemons, but again, I fail to see how any of that is due to having Rodriguez on the roster. Did he advise management to throw a large amount of money at bad players? Was he in charge of giving Carl Everett over 400 plate appearances despite a .295 wOBA and disastrously bad defense?

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/a-rods-first-contract-was-a-good-move/

  9. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    People hate on Boras, but what he says actually makes sense and can work out as a win-win-win-win. (Agent, Player, Team, Fans).

    Long contracts for young players (24 and younger) are great for the player because they get financial stability early and don’t have to run the risk of a career ending or debilitating injury. They’re great for the fans who have a young stud player and want to keep them around. (Wasn’t that the thing everyone complained about when Free Agency hit big?) They can be a bargain for the team if the player stays healthy and keeps his drive and doesn’t develop an ego.or attitude problem. (Having to bid on a young player every few years can get quite expensive.) And obviously they are great for an agent who gets one payday and gets to relax and focus on adding additional clients.

    Where we get into the biggest trouble is when we give long contracts to aging players who are likely to break down and, well age. Almost all of these terrible contracts people complain about, are when the player was close to, or already in their 30s.

  10. coryfor3 - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Trout may be the only guy worth considering a deal like that for. His durability and non controversial personality has separated him from Harper even.

    • jarathen - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      The Angels also have kept him in LF when possible, which should reduce injuries related to tearing all over center field.

  11. jlinatl - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    I know it is unlikely to happen but I would be all for 12 year contracts for core players if they were to have the last several years be more incentive-laden. It could in theory work for both sides if the guaranteed portion was allowed to escalate for X years and have incentives then when it reached (for example) year 7 the guarantee would de-escalate each year while the incentives escalated.

    Both sides would have some protection in the event of injury. The players that remain healthy and productive would still out earn those that do not. It could be viable for both sides. It may require the current compensation rules to be adjusted.

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