The other day Scott Boras called the new draft setup “a mockery,” and claimed that the capping of bonus payouts and the slotting for picks — with stiff penalties for teams who violate them — does nothing to distribute talent to those who need it (i.e. the purpose of the draft).
I think he’s probably right about that. Just ask the Cubs who, if they were allowed to, would go after the best talent they could find, overpaying for it if they had to. Now they’re capped and it will take longer to rebuild a farm system in desperate need of rebuilding. And why? To save owners money on draft bonuses. Money which, in the grand scheme of things is a drop in the bucket compared to what they pay mediocre free agents all the time.
But, as reader Aaron Ashcraft pointed out on Twitter, the finite money paid out by teams creates another problem too. One for Scott Boras and other agents: a potential for a pretty stark conflict of interest.
I’ve talked for years about how Boras often has a conflict of interest due to his representing multiple high-level free agents each winter. When he represented Matt Holliday and Johnny Damon in the same offseason, any effort he made to play up Damon as a left fielder to someone harmed Holliday’s market to some degree and vice-versa. It wasn’t irreconcilable — after all, if a team wants to sign Boras free agent A and Boras free agent B, they technically can, because there’s no salary cap and I’m sure Boras clients knew what they were getting into to begin with — but it does create a perception problem.
But the draft is more stark. Teams have a finite pool of money to hand out to their draft picks, and every dollar one gets is, by necessity, a dollar not available to another. As Aaron pointed out to me, Boras represents Astros draftee Lance McCullars and draftee Rio Ruiz. While there are slots involved, the more important number is the overall pool of dough the Astros have left to sign their picks because you can go over slot for individual players as long as you don’t break your draft cap. If Boras makes a push for Houston to pay McCullers a few dollars more, isn’t that necessarily harming Ruiz?
Again, I’m not saying Boras is doing anything wrong here. I’m sure he discloses all of these ins and outs to his clients, has them sign the necessary waiver of conflicts forms and all of the other sorts of things a careful lawyer and agent does. But this still seems like a problem to me that, at the very least, would make me wary of signing with an agent who typically represents a large number of drafted players.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.
According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.
Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.
While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.
Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.
More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.
Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.