Is Scott Boras The Cause Of The Free Agency Drag?
Scott Boras' Own Words May Have Changed Free Agency
The calendar has flipped to February and for most teams spring training begins in about ten days. Yet, there are a number of free agents still available on the open market.
There have been articles written that suggest that five of the players (Jimenez, Santana, Cruz, Morales, and Drew) markets are being limited by the qualifying offer attached.
While this may have some validity there are still some high revenue clubs that have protected picks (Mets, Phillies, Blue Jays, Cubs, Mariners) and a few teams that have already lost their first round pick in signing players (Yankees, Rangers) all of which could use any of the remaining free agents without the worry of losing a first round pick.
So what is with the slow down in signing free agents. Why do so many remain on the market this late into the offseason. Part of it may be the new wave of front offices who are more inclined to pay a salary commiserate of future production rather than overpay for past achievement but there is another possibility.
Did the braggadocios words delivered by super agent Scott Boras in an interview in January of 2012 (Jayson Start Link Here) reveal too much of his negotiation strategy? Was this picked up on by other agents while at the same time giving every front office executive a heads up on how to combat it?
The free agency slow down following the 2011 season included eight of Keith Law's top 20 free agents with four of them represented by Boras - Prince Fielder, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Madson, and Carlos Pena- still being available in January.
He was quick to point out that Matt Holliday waited until January to score his 7-years/$120M contract, Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez waited until February to land with the Tigers, and Greg Maddux once held out until March 23rd to sign his contract.
As Stark outlines a big reason for waiting the market out is because by January the market is almost tapped out, the non-tenders have signed elsewhere, and front office executives step back and realize that they still have holes to fill and they need to act before spring training.
As Boras put it, "The January free-agent lifeboat is a welcome addition to prevent next season's Titanic."
A National League executive credited Boras with being the best saying,"You have to marvel at his smarts and all that. But eventually, if you don't change the plays, the defense stops you. And he keeps running the same plays."
The same NL executive said he believed that players really wanted to know where they were going to play, "If it were me, I would be feeling pretty uncomfortable right now. But who knows? The amazing thing is, somehow he always seems to get them the money."
What if, so many other facets of the business side of baseball, front offices stopped doing things like they've always been done?
Have front offices simply taken the view that if players are willing to wait out the calendar based on their agents advice maybe they too should wait it out just as long? Why does the calendar tilt the scales so heavily in favor of the player/agent - because of a perceived need to have all business completed by day one of spring training? If there is there a point where leverage balances or swing back toward the team/executive isn't it worth the gamble to find out?
It would seem to me that the number one lifeboat any team can have at the ready would be cash on hand. The ability to have a payroll that can shrink and expand in times of crisis whether that expenditure comes over the winter or at the trade deadline in the form of taking on payroll.
By limiting the dollars and years committed to players on the free agent market solely to the time period a team feels the player will be productive is a good way to keep the payroll producing on the field rather than wasting away in the bullpen, on the bench, on the disabled list, or worse yet simply unable to play.
Front offices have come to realize that the surest way to spring a leak in that lifeboat is to overpay in dollars or years on the free agent market.