Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Boras, Prices and Rigging the Draft

An interesting article today at SaberScouting.com which discusses how superagent Scott Boras seeks to control his draft-eligible players and their eventual location. Seems that some think Boras wants to set artificially high prices to his players to determine where they will play, namely the richer teams drafting later.

We've seen the issues, loopholes and drawbacks in the draft pay off well for teams like Detroit, who have thumbed their nose at MLB's suggested draft slotting prices. Detroit sent highly regarded (and paid over-slot) Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, plus others, to the Marlins to get Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. They would not have been able to make this trade if they stuck to MLB's suggested slotting prices. The Yanks and RedSox are also guilty/successful at getting players that otherwise should not have been available to them late in the first round due to these players' contractual demands (aka signability).

The bloom is off the Boras rose this Spring after a Winter of discontent via ARod and other clients bailing. Still, Boras remains the alpha dog of the agent world.

Some industry insiders suggest Boras derives these numbers from blindfolding himself and throwing darts with the names of his top talents on them at a dartboard of numbers $5 million and greater, then uses that number (and other randomly-generated numbers, depending on the situation) to teams to figure out who will pay the most. He then does whatever he has to, to steer his players to that team or teams, including throwing out an even higher number to ensure his player slips, usually to the rich teams later in the draft.

This sounds like a good strategy, if not an incredibly irritating one for everyone involved. The reason Boras doesn’t get every amateur player to go with him is three-fold: 1) he hasn’t gotten the best deal every time lately (the A-Rod press hurt him) 2) he doesn’t talk to the player/family at all between hiring him and signing the contract and 3) similar to #2, he has an enormous ego.

The Tigers were able to nab uber-prospect Rick Porcello late in last year's draft by paying him like he was the #1 pick. So long as there is no mandatory slotting system (Union would NEVER agree to this) and no penalty for ignoring the "guidelines" suggested by MLB, the wealthier teams will continue to make a mockery of the draft. I think this is a great strategy for these teams.

The truth is, any team can do this, but few do. The cost to overpay for talent before it really blossoms is much less than trying to pay for it once it does. Also true is the fact that "can't miss" prospects do miss sometimes. But for teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City and Florida and Tampa Bay, it might make fiscal sense to spend a bit more early than choose a lesser player to save some money. Given the amount of money these smaller market teams are receiving from Revenue Sharing and Luxury Tax payments, this seems an area to be investing those payments.


EDIT: For those directed here from Shysterball, welcome. Feel free to look around the place and make yourself at home. Craig's been a wonderful help to me as I was starting this blog a few months back. This is a mostly baseball blog with a Yankees bent, but not a blindly homerific view (so I think). As usual, comments, criticisms, praise, mockery are all welcome.

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