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.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.