Battling Boras

Scott Boras is on the prowl. We know what he is peddling and can assume his minimum target is $30 million a year with an overall package value north of $300 million. He lives for this. He likes being the man known for getting top dollar for his clients. He is the agent who brokered the first $100 million deal and baseball’s first $200 million contract. It would be naïve to think that he doesn’t wish to be the first to negotiate a $300 million deal.

How does a team wanting to acquire Alex Rodriguez avoid giving a contract guaranteed to generate a severe case of buyer’s remorse? The first thing to understand is that Boras’ pie-in-the-sky projections are just that. In 2000, as we’ve discussed before, it was not the worst thing to overpay for what A-Rod might bring. In 2000…

  • He could pick it at short with the best of them.
  • In his previous three seasons, he hit 42, 42 and 41 HR.
  • Two of those seasons were in a tough hitter’s park.
  • He was 40-40 in 1998.
  • He won a batting title (.358) at age 20 and hit .358/.414/.631 that year with 54 doubles.
  • In two of the previous five seasons he garnered 215 and (a league leading) 213 hits.
  • In two of the previous five seasons, he slugged over .600.
  • He batted .409/.480/.773 with four runs, two HR and five RBI in the ALCS against the Yankees. The man drank pressure, licked his lips and asked for seconds.
  • He was a marketing department’s dream.

…and he had accomplished all that at age 25.

There was no downside to this player. Despite Tom Hicks’ overbid, nabbing Rodriguez was a masterstroke. If the Rangers could’ve cobbled together a pitching staff without using Boras as an advisor, A-Rod might still be in Arlington. The trouble in baseball is overpaying for less than top talent—the price of mediocrity, as it were. Overpaying for what A-Rod was bringing to the table in 2000 was at worst a minor faux pas—hardly worth the hysteria that we read.

The Alex Rodriguez of 2007 is a completely different beast. This is what clubs should be pointing out to Boras to negate his outrageous claims. Let’s contrast the selling points of this year with the ones used seven years ago:

He could pick it at short with the best of them.

Now he’s an average-fielding third baseman and will likely have to switch to LF/1B/DH over the course of his contract. While his counting numbers are better, his BA/OBP/SLG (.306/.389/.578 career; .314/.422/.645 in 2007) make him the AL version of Chipper Jones (.307/.403/.546 career; .337/.425/.604 in 2007). If you really want to rub it in, you point out Jones’ .288/.411/.459 in 333 postseason AB to A-Rod’s .279/.361/.483 in 147 playoff at bats.

In his previous three seasons, he hit 42, 42 and 41 HR.

No problems here, the man still has epic home run ability.

Two of those seasons were in a tough hitter’s park.

See above. Yankee Stadium is still a tough HR park for righthanded hitters.

He was 40-40 in 1998.

That was 10 years ago. He hasn’t topped 30 SB since then and will continue to slow down as he ages.

He won a batting title (.358) at age 20 and hit .358/.414/.631 that year with 54 doubles.

Not an issue; batting titles are overrated and everybody knows Rodriguez can still mash.

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In two of the previous five seasons he garnered 215 and (a league leading) 213 hits.

See above. Besides, he walks more than he did in his younger days. Not an issue.

In two of the previous five seasons he slugged over .600.

Another non-issue, he’ll have plenty of pop for years to come.

He batted .409/.480/.773 with four runs, two HR and five RBI in the ALCS against the Yankees. The man drank pressure, licked his lips and asked for seconds.

The fact that Boras included a section in his Rodriguez tome about other baseball greats’ October pratfalls will demonstrate loudly and clearly how he is perceived.

He was a marketing department’s dream.

Whenever he opens his mouth, people cringe. While he has been a model of decorum (save his episode in Toronto) he is viewed as insincere if not outright deceptive:

“I’ve always said to everybody that Seattle is my first choice.”

“I wanted to be a Met. I’ve always wanted to be a Met, I’ve been a Met fan since I was a kid. And I would’ve played there for less money and less years and they know that.”

“I want to be remembered as a Texas Ranger.”

“You’re asking me what my sincere feeling is. I want to 100 percent stay in New York. Period. That’s it. I don’t know how many ways I can say it.”

“I want to be here. I want to stay here.”

“I want to be in New York. This is the place I want to finish my career. That’s it.”

“We had options and we all know that, but I want to be in New York. That’s it.”

“I’ve always said it: I love New York, for me, as a player, to come full circle in New York, it’s the most comfortable I’ve felt.”

Rodriguez is viewed a phony who will say whatever it takes to maximize his income. The prevailing opinion is A-Rod will say what Boras tells him to say. He has more than his share of derisive nicknames. When Red Sox fans start chanting about not wanting A-Rod while celebrating a World Series championship, it’s a good indicator of how a lot of fans feel at the moment.

…and had accomplished all that at age 25.

He’ll be 33 in late July.

Speaking of comparables, what about this one?

Regular season (2004-2007)

Player            BA   OBP   SLG   HR
David Ortiz:    .302  .403  .612  208
Alex Rodriguez: .302  .391  .578  220

Post season (2004-2007)

Player            BA  OBP  SLG  HR
David Ortiz:    .381 .500 .735   9
Alex Rodriguez: .245 .343 .380   4

Is Rodriguez’ defense and base running worth $20 million? If Boras is shooting for $30-33 million a year, that will be the spread between the two if A-Rod gets that much. Most of Rodriguez’ value to his new club is as a hitter. There’s one offensive comparable and it’s a five-year sample size.

Therefore, when Boras produces his flashy presentation on the glories of signing Alex Rodriguez, I would counter with the following:

Owner/GM: “In July 2008, Alex Rodriguez will be a 33-year-old average fielding third baseman who will likely have to switch to LF/1B/DH in the very near future. His level of offensive production is right around David Ortiz and Chipper Jones levels although your client is more durable. To be perfectly honest, he isn’t well thought of among a lot of fans. They don’t like him in Texas, and they really don’t like him in New York at this moment. After the Red Sox won the World Series, Boston fans were chanting that they preferred Mike Lowell to Rodriguez.”

“Quite frankly, while Alex has kept his nose clean for the most part, he is generally perceived as being as phony as a three-dollar bill. This isn’t Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky you’re selling here. Ortiz is on a whole different level of marketability; ‘Big Papi’ is better liked, is now a World Series legend and makes $13 million a year.

“Here’s the perception: There is another player who isn’t well liked by fans. His name is Barry Bonds. When folks want to make fun of Bonds, they take his picture and Photoshop either a large head or these comic book superhero type arms onto him. When they wish to make fun of your client they put him in high heels and holding a purse. One is called Barroid, the other ‘Slappy.’ Do you see the problem here? Further, despite your cheery predictions, no player has produced at high levels by age 45. The closest we have is Bonds and simply put, A-Rod is no Barry Bonds and his achievements are considered suspicious.

“He will decline offensively, he will decline defensively, and he will steal fewer bases. You like using numbers Mr. Boras so you might be interested in this one: After Rodriguez’s monster year, his career OPS+ is 147. Ten players are right around that—five above and five below. The five in front are Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Vladmir Guerrero and Jason Giambi. The five just behind him are Lance Berkman, Miguel Cabrera, Todd Helton, Chipper Jones and Gary Sheffield. In the cases of Thomas, Ramirez, Thome and Giambi, this includes a good chunk of their decline phase—something Rodriguez has yet to begin.

“When you consider that A-Rod will make most of his money with his bat, well, there are 10 hitters in his neighborhood—are any of them looking for a 10-year/$300 million contract? Of course not. That’s absurd.

“He’ll put up some nice numbers in the next few years, we know that. Nevertheless the milestones you’re predicting are years away and the last time somebody gave your client a 10-year deal … well, he’s looking to play for his third team in the last seven seasons. What guarantees do we have that he’ll play happily here until these milestones are set? He was tired of Texas in three years. And judging by the timing of his opt-out and the fact that you didn’t even have a face-to-face meeting with the Yankees, he couldn’t get out of New York fast enough.

“I can show you a number of statements made by your client that are the exact opposite of what he ultimately did. How can I have any peace of mind paying for these milestones knowing that I only have his word to go on?

“His bat isn’t worth $300 million—the market tells us that. A-Rod’s post season performance isn’t worth $300 million—he has yet to play in a World Series game. Alex’s image isn’t worth $300 million—a lot of people tell us that.

“Rodriguez’s word that he’ll play here for the duration of his contract is most certainly not worth $300 million and no amount of defense and base running is worth $300 million. There are no guarantees that he’ll stay healthy or not get injured away from the field over the next 10 years and no company will insure the sort of contract you’re proposing.

“Let’s be more realistic here and start again, shall we?”

Caveat emptor.

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