Scott Boras: the teflon agent

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Buster Olney has an article up about Scott Boras over at ESPN today. It’s framed with a “I guess we’ll wait and see what Boras does” kind of thing, but the meat of it — and Buster’s probable intention — is to catalog some of Boras’ screwups in recent years.  The highlights:

  • Playing cute with Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates’ No. 1 pick in 2008, at the signing deadline and then starting a grievance process against Pittsburgh. Buster thinks this will hurt Alvarez long-term;
  • The A-Rod opt-out fiasco, which was only saved when Rodriguez went around Boras to negotiate with New York;
  • Johnny Damon’s apparently failed gambits this offseason, which have likely cost him either millions of dollars, playing in his preferred New York or both.

There’s room to argue about all of this. On the one hand, yes, Varitek probably took less money last year by opting out of arbitration than if he had gone, but if he did he probably wouldn’t have a job this year, which he has by virtue of the player option he got last year. $9 million for one year via arbitration in 2009, or 2009 and 2010 for $8 million total as a result of Boras-led negotiation? Varitek may very well prefer the latter to sitting at home doing nothing this season.

I’m not sure what to think about the Alvarez thing. Maybe Boras’ tactics have delayed his development in Pittsburgh, maybe not. Though I think that if any team is going to hold such business against a player it will be Pittsburgh, I think that even the Pirates are bigger than holding a grudge if the player’s talent and performance demands that he be advanced in a regular fashion.

What to say about A-Rod? It was messy to be sure, and probably ill-handled by Boras. But at the end of the day, A-Rod did get more money and what amounts to seven year extension, and no one would dare give him that now, let alone next year when his original deal would have expired. Take points off for style, but I can’t see how you can really criticize this when you take everything into account.

Ultimately I think Boras’ biggest mistakes come in the smallest of places, not these high profile affairs. Places like Johnny Damon’s contract this year, whatever it will be. In the welfare of his lower-profile clients like Joe Crede and Hank Blalock and Jarrod Washburn who likely have to deal with (a) an aversion on the part of front offices to deal with them because of who their agent is; and (b) the fact that they cannot possibly rate in the top ten of Scott Boras’ daily priorities given the other guys he represents, even before taking arguable conflicts of interest into account.

Boras gets raked over the coals for his high profile behavior. That’s probably a mistake. I’m way more curious about what happens when and where no one notices.

Chapman has trouble remembering convo with Cubs management about off-field behavior

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CHICAGO — Star closer Aroldis Chapman joined the Cubs on Tuesday, arriving to a mixed reaction in Chicago and saying he couldn’t remember what management told him about off-field expectations and behavior.

After Chapman’s awkward introductory news conference, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein insisted Chapman understands what the Cubs expect of him after an offseason domestic violence incident.

When the Cubs announced the trade with the New York Yankees on Monday, the team released a statement from Chairman Tom Ricketts saying they were aware of his 29-game suspension to begin the season under Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy.

Ricketts said he and Epstein talked by phone with Chapman before the deal was completed and “shared with him the high expectations we set for our players,” adding that Chapman was “comfortable” with them.

But when asked repeatedly about that phone conversation before Tuesday’s game against the crosstown White Sox, Chapman said through an interpreter that he couldn’t recall details because he was taking a nap at the time the call came in.

The question was asked several more times. A Cubs spokesman once asked the question himself to the interpreter, coach Henry Blanco.

“It’s been a long day,” Chapman said. “Trying to remember.”

Asked again several minutes later during the group interview if he could now remember what Ricketts said, Chapman shook his head.

“I still don’t remember,” he said in Spanish.

Epstein called it a misunderstanding and that Chapman was “pretty nervous” as he faced seven cameras and more than two dozen reporters.

“I was on the call, Tom was on the call, Aroldis was on the call and Barry Praver, his agent, was on the call. It happened and it was real,” Epstein said before the Cubs’ 3-0 loss to the White Sox.

Chapman was accused of choking his girlfriend and firing eight gunshots in the garage of a Florida home in October. The woman later changed her story and no charges were filed.

“You learn from the mistakes that you make,” Chapman said.

The case caused the Los Angeles Dodgers to back out of an offseason trade for Chapman. Cincinnati eventually traded him to the Yankees, and after his suspension, the 28-year-old Cuban converted 20 of 21 save chances for New York.

The Cubs have long boasted of stocking their roster with high-character players, helping earn the “lovable losers” label they’ve carried for decades since their last World Series title in 1908.

But the Cubs (59-40) have retooled their roster under Epstein and have the best record in the major leagues despite Tuesday’s loss in which Chapman didn’t pitch. Chapman, who threw a 105 mph fastball last week, fills perhaps the team’s largest hole as he replaces Hector Rondon as closer.

The Cubs sent four players to the Yankees, including shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, to get one of the game’s top relievers. Epstein said they wouldn’t have made the deal if not for the phone call he and Ricketts had with Chapman.

“Tom laid out the exact same standards that he lays out to everyone in spring training,” Epstein said. “He said, extremely clearly, `Look, Aroldis, I tell all the players this in spring training and it’s important you hear it and I need to hear from you on this. We expect our players to behave. We hold our players to a very high standard for their behavior off the field. And we need to know you can meet that standard.’

“Aroldis said `I understand. Absolutely, I can.'”

The Cubs activated Chapman before Tuesday’s game and designated left-hander Clayton Richard for assignment.

Reaction to Chapman’s acquisition in Chicago has been tepid. While there were supportive fans on talk radio, the Chicago Tribune carried a front-page column Tuesday criticizing the move. The back of the Chicago Sun-Times tabloid read “Spin City” over a picture of Epstein.

Chapman said he expected a “good reaction” from Cubs fans. He was also asked during the 20-minute meeting with reporters in the visiting dugout at U.S. Cellular Field if we would consider working with organizations looking to prevent domestic violence. Chapman said no.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon defended Chapman.

“He did do a suspension, he has talked about it, he’s shown remorse,” Maddon said. “Everybody else has the right to judge him as a good or bad person. That’s your right.

I want to get to know Aroldis. I think he could be a very significant member and he’s got the potential, yes, to throw the last out of the World Series. And if he does, I promise you I will embrace him.”

Report: Padres working on trading Andrew Cashner

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 21: Starter Derek Norris #3 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 21, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB Network reports that the Padres are working to trade starter Andrew Cashner. He notes that a deal may be consummated before he takes the hill for Tuesday’s start in Toronto against the Blue Jays. The Marlins, Orioles, and Rangers have had reported interest in Cashner.

Cashner is 4-7 with a 4.79 ERA and a 61/27 K/BB ratio in 73 1/3 innings. He missed over three weeks between June 11 and July 2 due to a strained neck.

The right-hander is earning $9.625 million this season and will be eligible for free agency after the season.