Gio Gonzalez
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Gio Gonzalez fires Scott Boras

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Gio Gonzalez has had a rough few months.

Despite being a pretty solid pitcher over the years, he claims he only received one offer all offseason: a minor league deal with the Yankees. He signed that in late March and the Yankees have kept him in the minors. If they don’t call him up by tomorrow, he can request his release. For what it’s worth, Gonzalez has not pitched well in Triple-A, likely because he didn’t get a spring training (this past month has been his spring training for all practical purposes). A such, it seems doubtful that the Yankees will call him up and likely that he’s going to be a free agent once again by this weekend.

He’ll be a free agent with a new agent, too, as Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that Gonzalez has fired his agent, Scott Boras, and is now represented by CAA.

Normally at this point I’d offer some stuff about how crappy the market is for free agents. And it is. But I’m more taken with the Scott Boras angle here. And wondering why on Earth players who are not top-of-the-market talents sign with him.

I’ve been wondering this for years and years, actually. I wrote about it a lot back in 2010 and I’m pretty sure I wrote about it at my old Blogspot blog back in 2007 or 2008 as well. The upshot: I’m sure Boras handles his business professionally and responsibly, and I don’t think he commits agent malpractice or that he is somehow not serving his clients in the way he thinks is best. I simply think that the way Boras tends to approach the market is not, actually, what’s best for secondary talents, even if it makes zillions of dollars for elite players like Bryce Harper.

What has made Boras so successful is his patience. While he, like all agents, have been burned in the past, he has been remarkably successful at getting good and often great deals long after most experts figured the money was not out there to be had. People were talking about Harper taking a short term deal with the Giants before he nabbed $330 million from Philly, you’ll recall. In the past he’s done that with other great players too. If I was an MVP-contender or looked to be the top guy at my position in the market, I’d strongly consider hiring Boras because the guy isn’t gonna blink and isn’t gonna get nervous playing chicken with clubs.

But if you’re not that guy — if you’re Gio Gonzalez, say — is that the best approach for you? If your agent’s m.o. is to get the top guys to set the market and then work on the dudes lower down the chain, why do you want to have the same agent a current free agent like Dallas Keuchel has?

You may counter that Boras is capable of doing two things at once, but even nine years later I can’t forget what Boras said to Jim Bowden on a radio show back in 2010 when he had both Matt Holliday and Johnny Damon in the same free agent class, both of whom were looking for left field jobs:

“Well, I think the market now after Matt [Holliday] has signed and Jason Bay has signed is starting to come alive because obviously teams are, some of the teams that were interested in those players have been contacting us. And I am in the process right now of turning my attention to Johnny’s situation.”

Maybe that was a poor choice of words, but if I’m Gio Gonzalez, I have to wonder if, given that Dallas Keuchel still doesn’t have a job, my agent’s attention has turned to my “situation” yet. And, when, exactly, it will.

And, yeah, maybe I fire him and hire CAA.

This Day in Transaction History: Padres pawn off James Shields

James Shields
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For a few years, starter James Shields was quite dominant. From 2011-14 with the Rays and Royals, the right-hander made a minimum of 33 starts each season with a 3.17 ERA. He peaked in ’11, finishing with a 2.82 ERA and finishing third in American League Cy Young balloting.

Shields leveraged that 2011-14 run into a four-year, $75 million contract with the Padres, inked in February 2015. It wasn’t an outright disaster of a contract for the Padres, but Shields did not live up to expectations. In his first year with the Padres, he posted a 3.91 ERA. Through the first two months of the 2016 season, Shields allowed 32 earned runs over 67 1/3 innings. The Padres, however, scored only 22 runs in his 11 games, so he was 2-7 after 11 starts. Shields also gave up one of the more memorable home runs in recent history on May 7, 2016:

On June 4, the Padres moved Shields and $27 million of the $58 million remaining on his contract to the White Sox. The White Sox gave up pitcher Erik Johnson and an infield prospect named Fernando Tatís Jr.

If the White Sox had a do-over button, they would have pressed it. Shields, 34 at the time of the trade, had a disastrous rest of the 2016 season, posting a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts for the White Sox. He finished out the remainder of his contract in Chicago, registering a 5.23 ERA in 2017 and a 4.53 ERA in ’18. Shields went into free agency but went unsigned and hasn’t pitched since.

Johnson flamed out after the 2016 season, yielding 20 runs in 19 2/3 innings in four starts for the Padres. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017 and spent the ’18 campaign between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso.

Tatís, as we know now, was the jewel of the trade. The White Sox signed Tatís as a 16-year-old as a free agent. A year later, before he ever appeared in a professional game in the White Sox organization, he was moved in a big trade. While it took him a couple of years to appear on top-100 prospect lists, his talent was readily apparent. In 2017, Tatís spent most of his season with Single-A Fort Wayne. He accrued 26 doubles, 21 homers, 29 stolen bases, 69 RBI, and 78 runs scored in 518 trips to the plate. Going into the 2018 season, Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus each ranked him among the top-10 prospects in the game.

Tatís was off to another great start in 2018. Through 88 games, he had a .286/.355/.507 line with 22 doubles, 16 homers, 16 stolen bases, 43 RBI, and 77 runs scored spanning 394 plate appearances. Sadly, in mid-July, Tatís broke his left thumb and suffered ligament damage while making a head-first slide. He recovered from the injury, playing in the Dominican Winter League and having another strong performance over 23 games. Tatís followed that up with a productive spring training, giving the Padres only one choice. He began the season on the Opening Day roster and jumped out to become one of baseball’s best players.

Over his first 84 games as a major leaguer, Tatís batted .317/.379/.590 with 13 doubles, six triples, 22 home runs, 16 steals, 53 RBI, and 61 runs scored over 372 plate appearances. Baseball Reference put him at 4.1 Wins Above Replacement. Sadly, similar to 2018, Tatís suffered a season-ending injury, a stress reaction in his lower back. At the time, he was neck-and-neck with Pete Alonso and Mike Soroka in the NL Rookie of the Year race. The injury allowed Alonso to win the award in a landslide while Tatís finished third.

While the White Sox would have loved to have Tatís at third base, they did end up finding some quality players in Yoán Moncada at the hot corner and Tim Anderson at shortstop. The White Sox and their young corps are close to being competitive again, but having Tatís in tow certainly would have sped up the process. And the Padres likely never would have gotten Tatís if they hadn’t inked Shields first.