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.