To Scott Boras, the free agent market is a one way street

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A revealing quote from Scott Boras in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  When asked about the timetable for Matt Holliday signing somewhere:

“The acquisition of a franchise talent is not about a wristwatch. That’s about all I can tell you. It’s not a
particular time. It’s about the club recognizing the benefit of having
that player and how they’ll be dramatically impacted by the loss of
that player. When that realization takes place, when there is recognition of the
player’s place in the market, then you have an
agreement.”

Note the lack of any comment about the player recognizing the benefit of playing for any particular club. No realization on the part of the player about his place in the market.  No mention on what happens if the club fails to agree with Boras’ assessment of where that place really is, in which case his client could be left out in the cold.  How long will Johnny Damon be waiting?  If the Cardinals follow through on their earlier statements about wanting to have some certainty on Holliday one way or the other by Christmas, how long will he be waiting?

Of course you can’t argue with the historical effectiveness of such an approach.
In the aggregate, Boras has been wildly successful by advancing this
teams-come-to-the-player philosophy.  Indeed, Boras’ approach has fundamentally changed the free agent market, and he almost always reaches a near top-of-the-market deal.

But in recent years the free agent market seems to have changed itself.  Will Boras adapt? Or will he, as Bill Madden of the New York Daily News thinks, end up leaving his two biggest free agent clients scrambling for work as spring training approaches?

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Dodgers owner Mark Walter is involved in a scandal

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The Dodgers last owner, Frank McCourt, was a mainstay of the gossip pages. The new administration has been pretty drama free since taking over five years ago. That is, until now.

Multiple outlets, ranging from the New York Post to the Wall Street Journal, have been reporting on a scandal brewing at Guggenheim Partners, the multi-billion investment firm led by Mark Walter, its CEO. Walter is also the head of Guggenheim Baseball Management, the offshoot of the firm which owns the Dodgers. Walter is the Dodgers’ named owner — the “control person” — as far as Major League Baseball is concerned.

The scandal does not directly relate to the baseball team. Rather, it involves allegations that Walter bought a $13 million Pacific Palisades home for a younger female executive named Alexandra Court:

In the past 24 hours, the company has pushed back on multiple reports that CEO Mark Walter will step down; its chief investment officer has claimed on CNBC that there’s “no tumult” at the company; and Guggenheim has denied reports on a real-estate blog and in the New York Post that Walter bought a California mansion for a younger female executive at the company.

The denial regarding who bought the mansion is a bit too cute, though, as the company only denies that Walter bought it or owns it. In fact, the mansion is owned by a holding company that also bought Walter’s personal residence in Malibu. Billionaires don’t go to closings at title company offices, of course. They buy houses through companies and LLCs and trusts and stuff. As such, the claim that Walter didn’t buy the house may be technically and legally true but entirely misleading all the same. For what it’s worth, The Wall Street Journal has reported that Walter and Court have a “personal relationship.” Walter, who is married, and the company deny this. Court is on an extended leave of absence.

Walter and Guggenheim are denying that Walter is going to step down as CEO. That remains to be seen. The question for our purposes is whether, if he steps down from Guggenheim Partners, he would necessarily have to step down from Guggenheim Baseball Management and thus relinquish control of the Dodgers. I suspect not — they’re distinct legal entities, and his departure from Partners would be unrelated to stuff having to do with the baseball team — but you never know. It’s not like he put up $2 billion of his personal dollars for the team. There are likely a lot of strings attached and contingencies involved to the arrangement.

Something to watch.