Boras' Impact on Trade Deadline Deals

Scott Boras

Agent Scott Boras and his policies continue to affect the business of Major League Baseball. A series of trades made at the deadline reinforce this.

Over the last few weeks as the non-waiver trade deadline loomed, several dozen major leaguers and prospects joined new organizations via what may have been an unprecedented level of high-profile deals.

 

The top ten players to have changed addresses include:

 

The top active home run hitter in Ken Griffey, Jr. and number five in Manny Ramirez. Between the two, we're talking over 1100 career long balls. And how about a former MVP catcher with 13 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Slugger Awards in Ivan Rodriguez?

 

We have the reigning Cy Young Award winner in the American League in C.C. Sabathia and the starter with the best strikeout ratio in baseball in 2008 in Rich Harden. Not stopping there, the A's also sent packing Joe Blanton, who in his short career has ranked in the top ten in the AL in wins, ERA and games started in a season.

 

How about the second switch-hitter in history to log four straight seasons of at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .500 slugging percentage in Mark Teixeira? Going the other way was a promising first baseman, former first-rounder Casey Kotchman. Then we have the primary beneficiaries of the annual fire sale in Pittsburgh, outfielders Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, traded to AL East rivals Boston and the Yankees.

 

Four of these ten currently employ super-agent Scott Boras. On the surface, that quantity being Boras clients may not seem all that unusual. Yet, let's look a little more deeply, as contracts and impending free agency seem to have a direct impact on at least three of the four.

 

The table below separates the top ten traded players into two groups – the ones who will be free agents after this season and the ones who will not.

 

Free Agents to be From To Agent FA Year
Ken Griffey, Jr. Cin CWS Riverfront Sports Mgmt. 2008-09
Manny Ramirez Bos LAD Scott Boras Corp. 2008-09
Ivan Rodriguez Det NYY Scott Boras Corp. 2008-09
C.C. Sabathia Cle Mil Legacy Sports Group 2008-09
Mark Teixeira Atl LAA Scott Boras Corp. 2008-09
Free Agents later
Jason Bay Pit Bos Octagon Baseball 2009-10
Rich Harden Oak ChC RMG Sports Mgmt. 2009-10
Xavier Nady Pit NYY Scott Boras Corp. 2009-10
Joe Blanton Oak Phi IMG 2010-11
Casey Kotchman LAA Atl IMG 2011-12

 

I will not delve into the free agents in future years other than to note that the Pittsburgh press confirmed that the Pirates went ahead and dealt Xavier Nady a year early since they figured he'd be leaving after next season, anyway. Of course, Boras had a different spin.

 

Note that in the referenced article, Boras does provide one example of a player that agreed to terms on a multi-year deal that bought up one year of free agency in advance. That is Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena, a former top prospect-turned-fringe major league journeyman for parts of six seasons before finally experiencing a breakout year in 2007. Think Ryan Ludwick in 2008.

 

Boras had to dial the way-back machine all the way to 2002 to be able to cite another such abnormality, Jeff Weaver, then with Detroit. Again, all except one of the four years of that contract simply covered arbitration-eligible seasons, with only the final one a possible free-agent year.

 

On the other hand, how many dozens of Boras' charges have ventured into the free agent market since the days when Weaver was actually an effective and promising major league pitcher?

 

Impending free agents

 

We see from the table that Boras represents three of the top five upcoming free agents just traded, Ramirez, Rodriguez and Teixeira.

 

Readers of my recent articles on St. Louis Cardinals impending free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse (free) and 2009-10 free agent to-be Rick Ankiel (subscriber-only) are already familiar with the tried-and-true Boras way - test the free agent market and in almost every case, join a new club via a multi-year deal.

 

This is hardly a news flash, but it may help explain why so many Boras clients changed addresses this month. Generally speaking, when existing clubs know they are not going to re-sign a player, some decide to get something more in return for losing him than just a draft pick or two.

 

Ivan Rodriguez may be the least interesting of the group. At 36 years of age and having caught over 2100 major league games, Pudge is nearing the end of the line. Two years ago, when last a free agent, there seemed few teams interested in him.

 

Still, I-Rod is a great fit for the Yankees, having lost Jorge Posada for the remainder of the season due to injury. Rodriguez' future deal will surely be modest compared to the other two, but Boras selling a two or three-year deal would not be out of the question.

 

What a difference 12 months make. Last year at this time, the Atlanta Braves were buyers, acquiring first baseman Mark Teixeira from Texas for a boatload of prospects.

 

Having recently lost two front-line Boras clients in outfielders J.D. Drew and Andruw Jones, this time the Braves decided to throw in the towel on their disappointing 2008 season and deal Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

 

What has changed in addition to not being in contention this season is that Atlanta must have wanted more for Teixeira than a couple of compensatory draft picks. Depending on who you listen to, the Braves are either cheapskates, quick learners, good businessmen or some combination thereof.

 

FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that Boras is floating the idea of a ten-year contract for Teixeira. Now 28 years of age and coming into the statistical prime of his career, Tex may not get A-Rod money, but his eventual haul may not be all that far from it, either.

 

After all, Boras and Teixeira have broken new ground before. After the first baseman was drafted by Texas in 2001, Boras worked over the Rangers for a signing bonus of $4.5 million with an overall guarantee of $9.5 million plus a major league contract to boot. That deal set a new standard for all the Rick Porcellos that followed.

 

Ranked tenth in season-opening payroll at $102 million, just ahead of the Cardinals in fact, the Braves have seen their dynasty erode in recent years. One reason is their inability to keep more than a pair of core players at home in John Smoltz and Chipper Jones.

 

Just to remain with Atlanta, Jones re-negotiated a below-market extension prior to the 2006 season that actually reduced his yearly salary in return for more years. Can you imagine a Boras client doing that? No, neither Chipper nor Smoltz employ Boras.

 

Other Boras clients departing Atlanta in recent years over money include Greg Maddux, Steve Avery and Jeff Blauser, along with Drew and Andruw Jones.

 

(As an aside, I give Braves GM Frank Wren high marks for picking up an emerging star in Kotchman to replace Teixeira. Though the Braves may have to endure the threat of three more years of arbitration, they picked up a good, young player that can remain under team control for 3 ½ more seasons. Nice move, Atlanta.)

 

Manny Ramirez may take a lot of heat for being goofy and indifferent toward the game, but he is far from stupid. He has been playing under an eight-year contract that will pay him $160 million. In addition, the Red Sox held two one-year options for 2009 and 2010 that would have enabled them to keep Manny around for another $20 million per season.


One might quibble here regarding the circumstances of this trade, as it is widely understood that this deal was not about the agent or the money. Or was it?

 

While Ramirez' current representative is Scott Boras, he is a relatively new arrival on the Planet Manny. Ramirez' agent when his existing contract was signed was Jeff Moorad, now General Partner and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks. When Moorad changed hats, two other agents from his old Legacy Sports Group, Scott Parker and Greg Genske, assumed the handling of Manny - until the outfielder fired them and employed Boras, that is.

 

So what, you ask? Well, here's the rub. If Manny's team options had been exercised, Parker and Genske would have received the commission. However, when Manny signs a new deal, Boras gets the agent's cut.

 

(Don't shed any tears for the jilted boys at Legacy, as they stand to make large amounts of money this winter when C.C. Sabathia leaves Milwaukee for the winter, plus the following six years or so.)

 

Now, I am not suggesting that Manny acted up in Boston to get out of his options and secure an even bigger and longer new contract. Yet the first step worked out just fine, because as part of the trade, the Dodgers agreed to waive their right to exercise those two option years, according to SI.com.

 

And as a ten-and-five man, ten years as a major leaguer and the last five with the same team, Man-Ram held absolute veto power over where he was dealt. It would seem if the terms of a proposed trade were not to his liking, he might have used his right to either get what he wanted or scuttle the deal.

 

Agents aside, nullifying the options does make some sense. After all, Ramirez is now 36 years of age, and it looks like Boras is angling for one last bonanza for his man-child. Rumors place Manny's opening bid at $100 million for a new four-year contract this upcoming winter that would carry the slugger though his age-40 season.

 

The good news is that the Dodgers are used to this drill, having been on both ends recently. They were dumped by Boras client Drew two years into a five-year deal, thanks to a unique opt-out clause negotiated by his agent and they took the hook on two years to the tune of $36.2 million for the shell of Andruw Jones last winter.

 

The conclusion? Again, those who don't believe that the mere presence of Scott Boras either directly or indirectly alters team decisions on player trades and acquisitions are only fooling themselves.

 

Anyone watching the 2007 World Series and specifically A-Rod's role in it, despite not being on either team playing, already know all about it. These 2008 deadline deals only reinforce the point.

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

  

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