Saturday, March 21, 2009

Will Scott Boras Redefine the MLB Draft?

Over the years, mega agent Scott Boras has become one of the most hated men in baseball. He is viewed as a money hungry villain, who will do almost anything to get his clients the richest contract he can get his hands on. Boras has repeatedly redefined the limitations of free agency by continually getting his guys gigantic contracts that most fans did not believe were humanly possible. Even after some missteps over the past few seasons (A-Rod, Manny), Boras still remains one of the best agents in baseball. There is a reason why players clamor for his services.

It now appears as though Boras is setting his sights on the MLB draft. Boras will be representing RHP Stephen Strasburg, who many believe is not only the best prospect in 2009, but one of the best prospects in a long time. Strasburg has been completely dominant this season by striking out 74 hitters in just 34 innings this season at San Diego State. Needless to say, this guy is dominant and flat out filthy.

So how is Boras trying to take advantage of this situation? By asking for a ton of money of course! As the legendary Peter Gammons writes,
"...some club officials think that if Washington takes San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick, Boras will ask for Daisuke Matsuzaka money (six years, approximately $50M) or take him to Japan for a year, a threat that may scare Stan Kasten into selecting a lesser prospect."
Let's digest that for a second. Even though Strasburg is dominant, he is still just a amateur player. There is no guarantee that he will be able to parlay his success in the college ranks into the bigs. Strasburg has no history in the bigs, yet Boras is still looking for a big league contract in excess of what many quality pitchers, who have pitched years in the big leagues, ever come close to getting. The idea that Strasburg will get a contract of that size before ever throwing a pitch in the majors is crazy.

And folks, keep in mind, the MLB draft is structured around a slotting system. Teams are supposed to try and stay within the slot that MLB recommends, but in years past, the slotting system has been overtaken by teams willing to go well above slot to ensure that a player signs. However, no player has come close to the type of contract that Boras is trying to get for Strasburg.

It will be interesting to see if any team actually meets Boras's demands for Strasburg. Because this contract is the first of its kind, I'm sure the negotiations will be long, drawn out, and very complex. Here's why:

On one side we would have Boras, who believes that he has the best prospect to come out of college in years, and possibly generations. He will try to set a high precedent for future clients and draft picks with this deal. In the process, Boras could destroy the slotting system (or what's left of it) as we know it.

But then on the other side, we have prospective teams (probably the Nationals). Strasburg is by far the best prospect on the board and there is no doubt that they would love to have him on board. But, prospective teams need to protect themselves. By my knowledge, no prospect has gotten more than $10.5 million dollars guaranteed (Mark Prior) from the MLB draft, so obviously there is no fiscal way that any team can justify paying Strasburg $40-$50 million guaranteed...or at least I hope.

I can see a prospective team guaranteeing Strasburg a bonus somewhere in the $10-$15 million dollar range, then followed by a wide range of incentives that could increase the value of the contract based on his performance. This way, both Boras and the team get what they want, while compromising with the other side.

But I'll admit it, I hate the way the MLB draft system is operated right now. The slot system has proven to be ineffective and if teams have to pass on Strasburg because of contract concerns, then MLB really needs to step up and try to institute a hard line slotting system that is far to both the team and player. It's only a matter of time before the system goes under for good.

And finally, if any team ponies up to Boras and his "alleged demands" for Strasburg, then whoever made the decision needs to have their head checked out.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Best way to deal with Boras is to pass. In the long run it isn't worth it. Maybe they can pass him down 5-10 spots so the teams 5-10 can decide if they want the hassle.

Otherwise, pick him, offer what's fair with no further negotiation.

No amateur is worth half of what Boras is promoting... just because the Yanks and the Sox blow money doesn't mean everyone else has to.