The job of an agent is simple; get the most money and guaranteed years for a client. Today, the best at doing such a seemingly simple task is Scott Boras. Although he has made it seem easy on occasion, it is very difficult to get a contract equal to a client's requested salary. Boras has been able to exceed this requested value more often than not. That's just the magic of Scott Boras.
When free agency rolls around, nobody is more intimidating in the baseball world than Boras. Boras is such a driving force in free agency that MLB Trade Rumors has a section just for his clients. No other agent has the kind of reputation that he has, which is why so many young stars sign on to be his clients.
Boras represents Major Leaguers like Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, Johnny Damon, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Prince Fielder, Carlos Gonzalez, Tommy Hanson, Matt Holliday, Edwin Jackson, Jair Jurrjens, Derek Lowe, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Mark Teixeira, Jered Weaver, Jayson Werth, Barry Zito, and many others.
His minor league clients include Dustin Ackley, Andrew Brackman, Bryce Harper, Jeremy Hellickson, Eric Hosmer, Desmond Jennings, Brandon Laird, Mike Moustakas, Donavan Tate, and Carlos Triunfel.
First, we'll take a look at some of his Major League clients. More specifically, those who have received huge pay days, like Adrian Beltre. Last offseason, Beltre was coming off a down year with a Seattle Mariners, and entered free agency hoping to latch on with a club and resurrect his career. He signed a 1-year deal worth $9 million with a $5 million player option with the Boston Red Sox on January 5, 2010. Boras hoped that Beltre would have a better season in 2010 than 2009 so they could collectively cash in during the following offseason.
Which contract was Boras' best work?
Beltre had a season that was better than probably either of them could have predicted. He put up a slash line of .326/.369/.563 and earned himself an enormous 6-year, $96 million deal with the Texas Rangers this offseason. Boras' great decision to just negotiate a 1-year deal with the Sox made him look like a genius. This is nothing new for Boras, however.
Next, we'll take a look at J.D. Drew. The Boras/Drew saga began in 1997 when Drew was drafted 2nd overall by the Phillies. Boras and Drew refused to sign with Philadelphia because Drew would not sign for less than $10 million. That's Scott Boras for you.
In 1998 he was selected 5th overall and signed a contract with the Cardinals. After failing to stay healthy in his tenure with the Cardinals, he was traded to Atlanta. After just one season with the Braves, by far his best season in the big leagues, he became a free agent. Boras and Drew cashed in by signing with the Dodgers on a 5-year, $55 million deal. In 2006, Drew batted .284 with 20 home runs and 100 RBIs. Drew chose to opt out of the remaining $33 million and pursue yet another big contract. Many would argue that the Red Sox overpaid Drew with a 5-year, $70 million deal. Over the current life of the deal, Drew's best season came in 2008 when he was selected to his firs All-Star Game. He was named MVP of the game.
Just this offseason, Boras and Carlos Gonzalez agreed to a monster extension with the Rockies. Before this past season, Gonzalez was always considered a marginal Major Leaguer at best. He always had potential, but then again, everybody has some of that. His slash line was remarkable in 2010, hitting .336/.376/.598 with 34 home runs and 117 RBIs. Oh yeah, he also stole 26 bases and had 8 outfield assists. In 2010, he was the prototypical five tool player and finished third in the National League MVP voting.
He was rewarded with a 7-year, $80 million contract extension through 2017. In the two seasons prior to his breakout, he averaged 87 games played, 8.5 homers, and 27.5 RBIs. Granted, it was a smaller sample size having only played in 85 and 89 games, respectively, but to give him that massive of a contract after one season is questionable. By now, you can probably tell that Boras cashes in on breakout seasons.
The "most hyped pick in draft history" is, of course, a Scott Boras client. Stephen Strasburg sports a 102-mph fastball, is easily a star in the making. Yet, prior to signing his first contract, he wasn't a star yet. The previous record amount of guaranteed money given to a drafted player was $10.5 million. Needless to say, Mark Prior didn't exactly turn out to be the pitcher the Chicago Cubs thought they were getting. Yes, he was dominant with the Cubs for a few seasons, but injury problems have derailed his career. The same could be true with Strasburg, who throws even harder than Prior but had season-ending elbow surgery
Despite the rookie risk, the Nationals signed Strasburg for $15.1 million and so far, he seems like a second coming of Prior. His first start was a 7-inning, 14-strikeout effort that left Nationals fans salivating. He finished his first major league stint at 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA. It may have been too good to be true. We'll see how it plays out.
Jayson Werth batted .296 with 27 homers and 85 RBIs in 2010. Many expected him to leave the Phillies and get paid nicely elsewhere. But few people predicted that elsewhere would be the Washington Nationals, and even fewer predicted that he would receive a 7-year deal worth $126 million.
So the question is: was he really Werth it? I know, terrible play on words. I just couldn't resist. Humor is the only thing that could explain this deal to some people. His 2010 season was respectable, but only slightly above average. He certainly wasn't worth such a massive amount of money. The Nationals could have been showing the other free agents that they're willing to spend money to win games, but come on. This was easily some of Boras' best work.
The final Major Leaguer we'll examine is Barry Zito. Regardless of the obvious alphabetical pattern I've been following, I've saved the best for last. Zito won the American League Cy Young award in 2002, posting a 23-5 record with 2.75 ERA and 182 strikeouts. He pitched over 200 innings in each of his six full seasons with the A's. In July 2006, Zito hired Boras to replace his former agent, Arn Tellem. Zito was obviously counting on a massive payday.
He got it.
He signed a 7-year, $126 million contract with an $18 million option for 2014. He became the highest paid pitcher in baseball history at the time. Now, he was definitely worth the hefty contract before signing it. However, everyone in the baseball world knows today that he hasn't been worth it since. Zito was even left off the Giants postseason roster during their World Series run. It's just another case of Boras cashing in.
Choo, Ellsbury, Fielder, Hanson, Jurjenns, Scherzer, and Weaver figure to be in line for pay raises in the near future, whether it be with their current team or a new club. All of the minor leaguers listed have legitimate chances at bringing in the money as well. Although nobody can promise that a player will live up to his contract, we can promise this: Scott Boras will get the biggest contract possible.