James Paxton is by all accounts a great prospect. So great, in fact, that the Toronto Blue Jays plucked the Canadian lefty with the 37th pick in last year's Amateur Draft.
Enter Scott Boras.
Boras is a man who provokes extremes in those he brushes up against. For clients he's literally money. To owners and cheapskates (who are not mutually exclusive), he's Gordon Gekko with a baseball.
When Boras added himself to the Blue Jays-Paxton equation last year, trouble brewed. As Paxton's "advisor" of sorts, the Jays failed to meet Paxton's asking price despite allocating the pitcher $873,000, the MLB's recommended signing bonus. With his refusal, Paxton aimed to return to campus at the University of Kentucky and play for the baseball team.
Toronto's president, Paul Beeston, in response, made a few remarks to The Globe and Mail about the NCAA's no agent rule. Whether or not Paxton violated those rules by hanging around with Boras is uncertain. A series of circumstances and rulings (described in full in the link) eventually lead Paxton to play for the Grand Prairie Air Hogs this year. It is there he awaits this season's Amateur Draft for another suitor to claim him.
What ensued between Beeston, Boras, and Paxton seems to stem from Beeston's comment to the media. It was the catalyst that found Paxton barred from Kentucky and NCAA competition. If purposely done, it's also quite petty.
The relationship between Beeston and Boras goes back 25 years. While executive vice president of the Toronto Blue Jays, Beeston was party to Boras' first multi-millon dollar contract; for relief pitcher Bill Caudill, a former teammate of Boras .
While he signed for five years, Caudill broke down in two and a half. In 1986, Caudill's last season with Toronto, he pitched only 36.1 innings with an ERA of 6.19. His salary for that season: $1.5 million, making him the highest-paid Blue Jay. The next closest was Dave Stieb for $1 million.
Boras negotiated a sweet deal for a friend who was on his way out, at the expense of Beeston and the Blue Jays. The Jays released Caudill the following season and let Oakland pick up the tab. Also, in what is clearly a coincidence, Toronto has zero Boras clients on its roster.
Skip forward to 1997. Beeston is now president and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball. A prospect named J.D. Drew and his agent, Scott Boras, are demanding $10 million to sign with Philadelphia. The team declines and Drew goes to play for the independent St. Paul Saints.
This touches off a debate over Drew's status, as either a potential draft pick or free agent. As president of MLB, Beeston had to have been involved in such a trying process; which is relatable to Paxton's current predicament.
Now these are tenuous links between Beeston and Boras, but the Blue Jays' president has come into contact with the superagent's voodoo on several occasions.
So, with all things considered, is it possible that Beeston used the dealings with Paxton as a way of delivering a jab at Boras? And, if that's the case, are the Blue Jays compromising their team by restricting their dealings with someone who has so much sway over premiere players?
The answer to both questions is most likely no. But it is fun to imagine Beeston pursuing a form of vigilante justice with every Amateur Draft.
Paxton will probably become an early draft pick this year and earn the money he's been pushing for. Scott Boras will take a percentage of it and the world will continue to turn.
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