Scott Boras’s philosophy when it comes to getting free agent clients signed is “January 15 is Thanksgiving, March 1 is Christmas.” In other words, by the time exhibition games begin in Florida and Arizona, he figures that Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales will be signed, and that in the case of Drew either the Mets or Yankees will see their need for him outweighs the expense of a third round draft pick or the Red Sox will go to three years and figure that after a good year in a good hitters’ park that they can trade him for more value than that third round pick.
If we have learned anything about Boras, it is that when he is seemingly boxed in, he the creative master of the Houdini. Prince Fielder. Pudge Rodriguez. Kyle Lohse. Rafael Soriano. And now in Drew and Morales he has two of the free agents burdened with qualifying offers, which means a signing team gives up a draft choice in addition to the contract at a time when draft choices are treated like blood relatives. Boras told Brewers owner Mark Attanasio that after the 10th pick in the draft, a club has a three per cent chance to select an allstar; Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen would answer that.
There is the notion that draft picks are overrated, even by some clubs who treasure extraordinary scouts, but give enough away and one can end up with the Yankee dilemma, which after years of living for the necessary moment, drafted players and draft choices have left Brian Cashman—who has done a remarkable job keeping them consistently relevant—having to try to outbid the Mariners, Dodgers or whoever for Masahiro Tanaka.
Boras argues that qualifying offers and what teams that lose free agents get as compensation shouldn’t be tied to the draft. First, he does not think free agents over 30 should be subject to qualifying offers. “We should be doing everything possible to try to get smaller market teams the necessary veteran leadership to contend,” he says.
Then, in lieu of draft choice compensation, Boras suggests that there be the equivalent of posting fees that teams have been willing to throw out for prime Japanese pitchers like Tanaka, Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. He suggests that if David Price is coming to free agency at 29 at the end of the 2015 season, there should be a certain automatic compensation level—be it $10M or $20M, whatever, that could be re-invested in veteran players and the draft; if the Rays, for instance, were to lose Price, it would get increased draft slot numbers, so they could sign veteran players for the present, spend more on the draft for the future and “be able to keep a Price for the full six years before free agency. It makes sense for their fan base.” In addition, again for instance, when Giancarlo Stanton and/or Jason Heyward, or even Trout or a Manny Machado hit the market under the age of 28, the payment would be even greater. “Rather than preparing to trade a premium player after his fourth year, they could have him for their fan base for the full six years,” says Boras, “then get legitimately compensated.”
Current MLBPA Director Tony Clark seems concerned about what the qualifying offers have done to the free agent marketability of Drew, Morales, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. Several general managers have felt that the draft and international market restrictions need to be re-considered.
Is Boras speaking out for his own interests? Of course. But small market owners wanted the change in the Japanese posting system so that most every team can at least post $20M, and larger signing markets willing to give Tanaka $100M would have that count towards luxury tax and revenue-sharing numbers, which so many of the recent local television megadeals do not, in case you think the Phillies and Indians are going to be equally compensated for regional television rights.
Every element of the baseball business is an agenda juggling act, so the more novel ideas that are offered can only lead to discussions that could find some settlement.
There were times when some of the suggestions for reworking October and creating as many elimination situations as possible were thought to be crackbrained; now, the acceptance rate suggests they may try to expand live-or-go-home scenarios. One of Boras’s concerns about the sport’s talent pool is the impact Title IX had on baseball scholarships. Many of us who believe in Title IX don’t think football should be included in the numerical calculations, since there are 85 football scholarships per Div. I programs, and women do not play football and thus shouldn’t be included.
But Boras has another suggestion—during the last ten days of February right in between pitchers’ PFP drills and the opening of exhibition games, have a 64 college tournament in Florida and Arizona, played at nights in major league spring training parks. MLB Network could televise the tournament, college players would have faces, not just Baseball America, MLB.com and Keith Law names, and when Carlos Rodon, Jeff Hoffman or Brad Zimmer get taken in the first round of the draft, fans watching MLB Network will have a clearer picture of who and what their team is getting.
In addition, the revenues generated could be used to get college programs from 11 to 20 scholarships, which should increase and improve the talent base, MLB’s investment in its future talent.
There’s no reason to stop thinking and creating. We all get why Bud Selig and Rob Manfred are suspicious of what Boras proposes, but consider this: Selig, Manfred, Jerry Reinsdorf, Arte Moreno, all have one common goal, and that is to constantly make baseball a better business. Boras should want Peter Angelos to make more money, because the more he makes, the better chance he has to sign Chris Davis.