It’s quite fashionable in some baseball circles to portray uber-agent Scott Boras as all that is wrong with baseball. Boras represents many of the top players in the game and is quite strident in his views that each player should take their talents to free agency, in lieu of giving up prime earning years to teams in extensions. His tactics don’t typically engender goodwill in fans, as even with minimum salary players he’ll push for them to get extra money for their previous performances, rather than accepting the modest increases over the $507,000 minimum salary. We saw a taste of this with Gerrit Cole this pre-season, as Cole was upset that he wasn’t compensated at a higher level than other minimum salary players.
For years, Boras has crusaded against the entry draft, saying that it suppresses wages and that these mega-corporation baseball teams are getting the equivalent of indentured servitude. Although I disagree with this concept, as I firmly believe that everyone needs to start at the bottom and earn their way to big contracts with their performances, I can understand his viewpoint on this. He wants a truly free market, similar to what European soccer has, where every player is a free agent and can virtually negotiate every year for their transfer to a different club. Each player only has had a limited window to earn, so Boras is trying to squeeze every dollar he can out of these mega-rich owners.
But for all the grumbling and gnashing of teeth over Boras and his approach, ask yourself this question — If you were a baseball player, isn’t Scott Boras the exact agent you would want? He is consistently trying to maximize his players’ earnings, he has a whole slew of people supporting him to create a full training/marketing atmosphere for his clients, and he’s constantly working to better your situation. His preparedness at arbitration hearings and free agency meetings is legendary with his huge binders of information about his clients.
Yes, he needs to stop advocating his positions so loudly in the media. There have been instances where he has directly tried to manipulate situations for his clients that I don’t care for. But if I were a star-level player, I would choose Scott Boras. Although as an aside, knowing my own personality, I would probably choose a smaller agency as I know my own preferences for handling business. I also know that I wouldn’t turn down a reasonable extension in order to obtain some security for myself and my family. That’s just me, but I can easily see the Boras approach, too.
All of this comes back to the two Boras clients currently on the Pirates’ roster — Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell. Cole is clearly having an off year, but reasonably-minded fans should see that Gerrit Cole is an outstanding, ace-level pitcher. He’ll be entering arbitration for the first time this offseason and is probably going to get around $5M. There will be a hue and cry for the Pirates to sign him to an extension (NUTTING IS TOO CHEAP!! the certain part of the mob will say), but it’s just not going to happen. Boras doesn’t do it. Sure, there have been a few extensions here and there against his advice, like Jered Weaver and Carlos Gonzalez and most recently Stephen Strasburg, but that just sets off a flag for me. If Boras wants to do an extension, I would pass, because with his training and medical staff on-hand that would tell me he knows there’s something wrong with his client. All three of these guys that I just mentioned have had some checkered injury histories since signing these extensions.
I’ve come to this zen-like state with Scott Boras’s clients. I just accept that there is a limited time frame that they will be here. I hope that Cole is here in Pittsburgh for the next three years, but I understand the business aspects dictate that he may be traded prior to that so that the Pirates maximize their return on him. Josh Bell is exciting at the plate and frightening in the field, but I know that the Pirates have six full seasons after this before he hits free agency. Not every player has to spend their whole career with one team. This isn’t communist Russia, players have the right to free agency.
If Boras were to turn his bluster down a notch and stop trying to rage against the machine all the time, he would be regarded much more highly than he currently is. But even in his current state, he’s not a bad person. His job by nature needs him to be aggressive and to protect the interests of his clients. He does an excellent job at that.