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.

Troy Tulowitzki held a workout for eleven clubs

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Yesterday free agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki held a workout in California and representatives from at least eleven teams were on hand, reports Tim Brown of Yahoo. Among the clubs present: the Giants — who were said to have a “heavy presence,” including team president Farhan Zaidi and manager Bruce Bochy — the Angels, Red Sox, Cubs, Padres, White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Phillies, Tigers and Pirates.

Your first reaction to that may be “Um, really? For Tulowitzki?” But a moment’s reflection makes it seem more sensible. We’re so tied up in thinking of a player through the filter of their contract and, when we’ve done that with Tulowitzki over the past several years, it has made him seem like an albatross given the $20 million+ a year he was earning to either not play or play rather poorly due to injuries.

It was just the contract that was the albatross, though, right? An almost free Tulowitzki — which he will be given that the Blue Jays are paying him $38 million over the next two seasons — is a different matter. If you sign him it’ll be for almost no real money and he stands a chance to be an average or maybe better-than-average shortstop, which is pretty darn valuable. You might even get one quirky late career return-to-near-glory season from him, in which case you’ve hit the lottery. If, however, as seems more likely, he just can’t get it done at all, you’re not out anything and you can cut him with little or no pain.

Eleven teams think he’s at least a look-see. I bet one of them will offer him a major league deal. Maybe more than one. He’ll probably have his pick of non-roster invites to spring training. I can’t see the downside to at least doing that much.