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  1. jailblazer

    jailblazer

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    Boras is the Teflon agent
    Tuesday, December 29, 2009 | Feedback | Print Entry
    As the offseason began, there was a strong perception within the baseball industry -- on both the union side and on the side of management -- that the totalnumber of dollars spent on free agents was going to decline significantly this winter. Last winter, $1.16 billion was doled out to free agents, and so far thisoffseason, the total dollars spent is about $400 million -- or not much more than the $300 million-plus deal that Alex Rodriguez signed a couple of years ago.

    Some agents have moved aggressively, as one general manager noted the other day, seemingly to ensure that their clients got a piece of the diminished moneypie. The Levinson Brothers, Seth and Sam, have worked out deals for a lot of their clients, from Chone Figgins to Jason Marquis to Fernando Rodney, and ArnTellem negotiated a $29.75 million contract on behalf of Randy Wolf, and Mike Nicotera has settled on deals for Mike Cameron and Troy Glaus.

    On the other hand, the three highest-profile clients of Scott Boras -- Matt Holliday, Johnny Damon and Adrian Beltre -- remain unsigned.


    Some of the Boras clients with less stature signed relatively quickly, from Andruw Jones to Mike Gonzalez to Alex Cora. As history has shown, however, Boraswill wait longer for offers to develop on his most prominent clients. Manny Ramirez didn't finalize his deal with the Dodgers last winter until February,Carlos Beltran didn't sign his deal with the Mets until Jan. 11, 2005. Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees just before Christmas, a couple of weeks afterCC Sabathia last winter. Boras often bides his time until just before the August deadline before settling on deals for his best first-round draft picks.

    But there's an unusual dynamic in play when it comes to Boras' negotiation style: His stature within the sports industry has reached a point where itdoesn't seem to matter whether his strategy works out well or not. Scott Boras' reputation as a superagent has turned him into the Teflon agent.

    There are some agents who go through each offseason period with high anxiety. Their jobs are on the line; their livelihood is on the line. The pressure fromthe union to make good deals, some of them say, has never been greater. There are more than 200 free agents this winter, and many agents have to wait for otherdeals to be finished, in a domino of moves, before offers for their own clients evolve. The other day, I had a conversation with a general manager who musedabout whether one agent (not Boras) might wind up getting sued because of how his player's situation played out this winter.

    Practically speaking, Boras no longer operates under this kind of duress. He has made tens of millions of dollars for his corporation. It's very doubtfulthat he is challenged by the union leadership in the manner that much smaller agents are. His livelihood is not on the line. If a high-profile player fireshim, he will still be Scott Boras, Superagent. He can wait for offers to develop for Beltre, Damon and Holliday in part because he is Scott Boras, Superagent,who has found loopholes in the past, who negotiated the first A-Rod mega-deal with Texas, who coaxed the Los Angeles Dodgers into giving Kevin Brown a $105million contract, who represented Stephen Strasburg.

    Does it really matter that his strategy doesn't always pay off for his clients? No, it really doesn't. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, it'sevident that it was a mistake that Jason Varitek declined the offer of arbitration from the Red Sox, a decision that seems to have cost Varitek a lot of money.It's fairly clear that Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates' No. 1 pick in 2008, really didn't gain much by starting a grievance process against Pittsburgh-- a choice that may, in the end, delay his ascension to the big leagues. After the Yankees walked away from the bargaining table with A-Rod in the fall of2007, Rodriguez eventually used intermediaries, rather than Boras, to frame his deal with the Yankees.

    It may be that Damon has already missed out on his chance for his best deal this winter. As the winter meetings concluded, the Yankees wanted Damon back andwere fully prepared to offer him a two-year deal for something in the range of Bobby Abreu's $19 million contract with the Angels. "I think we'llwork something out with Johnny," said one Yankees official, on Dec. 9.

    But their first attempts to start the talks were met with much higher demands than they anticipated, so they moved on and signed Nick Johnson to a more modestone-year, $5.5 million deal. It remains to be seen where Damon will land and for how much.

    Two years ago, the Colorado Rockies were fully invested in the idea of keeping Matt Holliday and reportedly offered him a four-year, $82 million deal; when theoffer was turned down, the Rockies traded him. Earlier this offseason, Boston offered Holliday a five-year, $82.5 million deal; when that offer was rejected,the Red Sox pulled it off the table and moved to sign John Lackey.

    The Cardinals offered a deal to Holliday believed to be for at least five years and $80 million earlier in this offseason -- less, in annual value, than whatthe Rockies offered -- and those talks seem to have stalled.

    Boras continues to talk with teams about Holliday, Damon and Beltre, team executives say, in an attempt to stir the market for his players. He waits for betteroffers to come.

    Will his strategy work? Time will tell. Either way, Boras' reputation will remain cemented.

    Notes

    • A source reiterated to Anthony McCarron: The Yankees will not spend the money to bring Johnny Damon back.

    • As the Cardinals have waited for a decision from Matt Holliday, they have seen their Plan B sign elsewhere, writes Bernie Miklasz; Felipe Lopez could be aPlan C.

    • It figures that with Mark DeRosa off the board at third base, Adrian Beltre will soon land somewhere; the Red Sox, Mariners and Athletics are among the teamsthat have seemed to be his most ardent suitors. Beltre is generally regarded as the best defensive third baseman in the game, and I asked some talentevaluators, via e-mail, to explain what separates him. Their responses:

    Talent evaluator No. 1: "Beltre is blessed with exceptional body control, soft hands and a live arm that is accurate from all slots."

    Talent evaluator No. 2: "He is athletic, great actions, can make all the plays and can throw from all angles. A confident fielder -- he plays with no cup-- and his hands are soft, quick release and a fairly accurate arm. Takes good angles to balls, can make the plays to both sides and coming in on the slowroller he might be the best. Can't teach what he does defensively.