Every baseball fan in the world knows the name of Scott Boras. For those not acquainted, Boras is not a flame-throwing lefty out of the pen or a baseball-demolishing power hitter. No, he’s simply an agent.
But unlike other agent, who normally ply their wares behind the scenes, get the best for their clients quietly and then move one, Boras actively pursues not only publicity—which he does to normally great effect—but seems to enjoy actively attracting confrontation with management and GMs. His thought process seems to be “Confrontation will bleed the bucks for my client. And therefore me.”
But does it? Do Boras’ negotiation tactics actually work? Is he good for his clients? Let’s take a look.
We always hear about Boras having several teams interested including the famous “mystery team”. The most interesting client of his this off-season is Johnny Damon. Reports are that Damon is on the verge of signing with the Detroit Tigers for 2 years at $14 million per. I’m baffled by that because that is the exact deal that Boras advised Damon to reject from the Yankees in early December.
For Damon, this is the second contract in a row that his price has had to drop dramatically. However, this time, the Yankees aren’t there to save him.
In 2006, when Damon came up for free agency, John Henry II, owner of the Red Sox flew to Damon’s home in Florida to tell him how important he was to the Red Sox and how badly they wanted him back. The Red Sox then offered a 4-year, 40 million-dollar contract. Boras dismissed it out of hand and said negotiations for the 34-year-old Damon begin at 7 years at roughly 90 million.
To the surprise of no one, the market did not bear that out.
Playing the Red Sox and Yankees against each other, Boras hoped to drive Damon’s price up. And while he was party successful—Damon did get his 13 million annual—he got it for only 4 years, not for 7. According to the Red Sox, they were shocked by Damon’s signing—Boras never offered a counteroffer to the Red Sox; he never even told them that Damon was signing with the Yankees at all. According to the Red Sox, they were negotiating with Boras and felt that a deal would be worked out at some point—that they were on the same page and that there was an understanding between Damon and them. Former co-general manager Jed Hoyer retroactively described talks the Damon talks with Boras ‘’as very productive.”
However, despite that fact that no one offered Damon anything more than 4 years, much less 7, Damon secured a nice paycheck and was content. Things did not work out so well the past time Damon reached free agency.
When Damon reached free agency in 2009, Boras decided to play hardball with the Yankees. Despite Damon’s obvious love for the Yankees and New York, Boras said to Yankee GM Brian Cashman in early December that Damon would not take a penny less than $13 million per year for two years. Don’t even make an offer if it doesn’t have that figure in it. Naturally, the Yankees GM said: “We believed him,” Cashman said.
Instead the Yankees, much to the surprise of Boras and Damon, have decided to go with Brett Gardner, Randy Winn and a host of Plan B guys, minor leaguers and journeyman in left field. Boras, who had previously constantly rebuffed the Yankees whenever they tried to negotiate with Boras for Damon, according to Buster Olney, ultimately priced himself out of his preferred choice, the Yankees, but seemingly almost the entire league. Too pricey and no longer an option for the Braves, the Tigers, the A’s and the Cubs, and seemingly forced to accept a 4 million dollar deal from the Rays. A far cry from the 13 million he demanded from the Yankees. Out of work, I’m sure there are some nights Damon wished he took the Yankees final offer of 6 million per. Oooops.
Boras has been known as the “super agent”, but that title is being put in question. Yes, Scott Boras thinks only of money. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s his job. However, this year’s salary and the best long-term interests of the athlete do always coincide. And they certainly aren’t what is best for baseball. The betterment of baseball notwithstanding, what Boras seeks just isn’t in the interest of the best interest of his clients sometimes—career-wise, or even financially long-term-wise. Sometimes it behooves players to pick what best serves their personal interests long-term rather than the bottom line.
Ultimately its up to the client. Whatever the athlete wants, no matter what Boras may believe is what should play out. However, considering Boras’ track record, we should consider that Boras’ goal is not always what is in the best interest of his client. It is for the most money. Which is in what is best interest for Boras.
That needs to be checked on.