Scott Boras

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Scott D. Boras

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Biographical Information[edit]

Player agent Scott Boras is considered by some to be the most powerful man in baseball as, for a time, some teams would rather have skipped a player he represented in the amateur draft than have to negotiate a contract with him. In one of his biggest coups in 1996, Boras showed he understood baseball's rules better than some front offices when he got four drafted players he represented to be declared free agents because the teams who had drafted them failed to follow rules that said that a written offer had to be made within a certain time frame. Major League Baseball has since amended its rules to limit the leverage exercised by drafted players, but Boras continues to wield significant influence.

Playing Career[edit]

Boras was originally a player himself, spending four seasons in the minor leagues. He debuted with the 1974 GCL Cardinals, hitting .274/~.405/.347 in 33 games. He stole 7 bases in 9 tries. Defensively, he struggled, fielding just .870 at third base and .889 in the outfield. In 1975, Boras began a stretch with the St. Petersburg Cardinals. Moving to second base, his fielding improved significantly. He hit .277/~.402/.373 but was just 1-for-2 in steals. He was 8th in the Florida State League in batting average.

Playing second and third base in 1976, Boras had a big year, hitting .295/~.383/.387. He was fifth in the FSL in average and tied five others for the league lead with 22 doubles. He made the league All-Star team as a utility man, as Tim Ireland (2B) and Lou Whitaker (3B) beat him out for the starting infield spots. Back in St. Pete again, Boras hit .346/~.440/.423 in 22 games in 1977. He also played for the Arkansas Travelers that year and the Midland Cubs after moving to the Chicago Cubs system. Between those AA teams, Boras hit .275/~.379/.351, continuing to show good OBP skills. Injuries were taking their toll, though, and Boras decided to return to college to pursue a degree in law. He also earned a doctorate in pharmacy.

Player agent[edit]

Boras is known as a hard negotiator who is not afraid to recommend that players (such as J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek) lose a year rather than accept a deal that Boras feels is not fair. Other clients, Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver, were top picks in the 2004 amateur draft, but held out until just before the 2005 amateur draft before signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, respectively. Major League Baseball has made a number of changes to the amateur draft system over the years to counter some of his ploys, such as instituting a final signing date in mid-August and then bringing it forward to mid-July, and creating compensatory picks of almost equal value for teams that fail to sign their first-round selection. They have also set clear guidelines on signing bonuses, with significant penalties to be incurred by teams that ignore them.

Speculation is that Boras would like to see the draft completely abolished, as this would make all amateur player free agents able to auction their services to the highest bidder, increasing his leverage considerably. He has been very vocal in his criticism of the draft system, including changes in the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement that capped the total amount of signing bonuses that teams can pay to their top draft choices, in return for setting bonus targets based on selection rank. Boras has claimed that some lower revenue teams are gaming the system, in order to avoid paying the top end bonuses, and that this ultimately means the draft cannot fulfill its role in ensuring competitive balance.

Owners have been critical of Boras as well. In 2012, Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick chastised Boras for putting the interests of one of his clients, Stephen Drew, ahead of those of the team, by advising him to take it easy in rehabbing from a broken ankle and not risk re-injuring himself. Kendrick claimed this was because Boras was more concerned in securing a large contract for Drew when he was to become a free agent after the season, than in actually helping the team who is paying him win ballgames.

Boras' biggest impact has come in the free agency market. Boras has been responsible for some of the largest free agent contracts in baseball history, including the two record-shattering contracts offered to Alex Rodriguez.

Boras was involved in a controversy about Pedro Alvarez, the #2 pick in the 2008 amateur draft. After the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boras had come to terms, including a $6 million bonus, a minute before the August 15th deadline, Alvarez did not show up to sign his contract. As a result, Major League Baseball put Alvarez on the restricted list on August 27th. Boras claimed that the deal had been completed after the deadline, something he had not stated after the deal had been announced and prior to the placement of Alvarez on the restricted list. The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance on Pedro's behalf and the case was sent to an arbitrator. On September 24th, before the arbitrator had made a ruling, Alvarez agreed to a four-year major league deal for $6,355,000 and the MLBPA dropped its grievance. Both Boras and the Pirates claimed to have gotten the best of the new deal.

Another controversy arose in October of 2011, when long-time client Carlos Beltran left his agency a few months before the expiration of his contract, then signed a two-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. Boras filed a grievance in order to retrieve 5% of Beltran's contract, citing a provision in the player agent contract that includes penalties for ending it prematurely. The case went before independent arbitrator Shyam Das, who was previously Major League Baseball's official arbitrator for many years and knows the insides and outs of the business of the game thoroughly; the MLBPA argued on Beltran's behalf. Das ruled in March of 2014 that the clause was unenforceable, because a player had a right to change representation without being threatened with penalties. Boras was also in the news at the time for counseling some of his clients to stay idle well beyond the usual limit of the start of spring training in order to secure a better contract: Kyle Lohse had signed his contract when spring training was winding up in 2013, as had Ervin Santana a year later, while Kendrys Morales was still sitting idly at home when the 2014 season started.

He pulled off another unprecedented strategy in May of 2019, when he advised one of his client, Carter Stewart, who had been drafted in the first round the year before but had failed to come to an agreement with the Atlanta Braves over injury concerns, to sign with a Japanese team instead of reentering the draft. In his typical fashion, he claimed that his client had been badly wronged by a completely unfair system and that "it had become a necessity" for him to find a solution not to go through the process again. There were some questions whether, in continuing his long-standing combat to have the draft abolished, he was playing roulette with a young man's future. He again made the news following the 2019 season when he claimed the free agent system was "corrupt" and that it artificially lowered salaries and as a result contributed to lower attendance numbers. He explained that the system rewarded team for being uncompetitive, thus restricting the market for experienced (and more expensive) players. On the other hand, teams' increased reliance on analytics showed that signing overpriced veteran free agents rarely panned out and it was better usually to play younger players, who also were cheaper financially.

He had a great few weeks following the 2019 season as he was responsible for getting four huge multi-year free agent deals in the span of a few days. First, 3B Mike Moustakas signed a four-year deal for $64 million. He was followed by Ps Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole who both broke the previous record for the biggest deal granted to a pitcher by signing for $245 and $324 million, respectively, and finally Anthony Rendon reached a deal for $245 million also. However, before these players could play for their new teams in the regular season in 2020, baseball was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. As talks between owners and the MLBPA about how to re-start the season became serious in mid May, and the financial implications of playing without spectators present had to be worked out, he tried to insert himself into the discussions, advising his numerous clients to refuse any further salary cuts beyond those agreed on March 26th. His position was that the owners were coming off years of record profits and should absorb more of the financial hit. While prominent players had already expressed similar views, others were not pleased with an outsider meddling in the negotiations. Trevor Bauer, never shy about expressing his opinion, tweeted that Boras shiuld "Keep your damn personal agenda out of union business."

Scott's son, Shane Boras, turned pro in 2011.

Prominent Clients[edit]

Sources include 1975-1978 Baseball Guides

Further Reading[edit]

  • Associated Press: "Boras to clients in memo: Don't bail out baseball owners", USA Today, May 28, 2020. [1]
  • Teddy Greenstein: "2 hours with Scott Boras: Baseball’s No. 1 agent (but don’t call him that) riffs on clients Kris Bryant, Dallas Keuchel and Addison Russell — and rails on MLB’s luxury tax", Chicago Tribune, March 10, 2020. [2]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Top takeaways from Scott Boras' truth-speaking - and stretching - at MLB winter meetings", USA Today, December 12, 2018. [3]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Agent Scott Boras criticizes MLB as amateur prospect Carter Stewart skips draft for Japan", USA Today May 23, 2019. [4]
  • Bob Nightengale: "As top free agents hit the market, Scott Boras says MLB's system is 'corrupt'", USA Today, November 13, 2019. [5]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Scott Boras pulls off huge free agency coup and gets money flowing back into baseball", USA Today, December 12, 2019. [6]
  • Bob Nightengale: "How Scott Boras got Gerrit Cole his $324 million deal with the Yankees", USA Today, December 17, 2019. [7]
  • Bob Nightengale: "'Entirely in his self-serving interests': Some think Scott Boras is wrecking MLB's 2020 negotiations. He says otherwise.", USA Today, June 18, 2020. [8]

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