Scott Boras has seen great success to date in maximizing his clients’ value. That track record is an influencing factor in why he pushes his players to wait until they can play the open market via free agency, rather than allowing them to negotiate and sign lucrative contract extensions first with their respective teams. Boras has simultaneously been considered one of the smartest minds in baseball and one of the game’s most hated men. Despite it all, his track record has earned him respect across the baseball landscape and when he speaks, people want to listen. Unfortunately, there are instances where he really ought to keep what he has to say to himself, including one situation from last week’s Winter Meetings.
The comments in question stem from a question Boras was asked regarding Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, who was taken 8th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in last June’s MLB Draft (per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune):
When you make decisions like that in the draft, they’re huge decisions. There was no communication with us (before the draft). We would’ve been happy to have given them an advance notice that they could’ve used their pick in another way. We certainly would’ve let them know we didn’t have a fit there. These players have options when you have that kind of talent. That was an unfortunate event for all of us.
Boras suggests that there were no circumstances under which his client would have signed with the Pirates. He suggests, in no uncertain terms, that Appel was not going to end up in Pittsburgh so the team wasted their pick, and everyone’s time, in doing so.
Widely considered a possibility to be taken with the 1st overall pick in the draft, Appel tumbled due to concerns about the signing bonus that he and Boras would ask for from any team that selected him. Pittsburgh had no way of knowing he’d be available when their selection came up. Even Boras couldn’t have predicted where he might possibly end up being drafted. In effect, his stance that the Pirates made a mistake by not initiating communication in advance of the draft was purely off base and unfounded.
Biertempfel mentions that Boras has long had concerns over the organization’s unorthodox training methods, specifically the Navy SEAL-esque regimen and techniques that are used with the organization’s top minor league prospects. Such considerations are somewhat justified, considering the public criticism the organization has received over these tactics (not to mention the fact that such criticism resulted in the organization shutting down these efforts in the past month), but to take the blanket approach that none of his clients would sign with the Pirates because of them seems a bit extreme.
What’s concerning about such a practice is the fact that Boras has let his clients sign with Pittsburgh in the past. He represents four players in the Pirates organization – Pedro Alvarez, Gerrit Cole, Josh Bell, and Andy Oliver (who was just acquired this past week). To take the stance that none of his clients will sign in Pittsburgh, when some have, simply serves little purpose.
Upon drafting Appel last June the Pirates offered him a bonus of $3.8 Million, the maximum the team was able to offer after signing the remainder of their first ten picks (thanks to changes to the collective bargaining agreement that limit how much teams can spend on the draft before being taxed on the overages). Anything additional to that amount would have essentially counted double, a penalty the team wasn’t willing to face. Appel declined, likely at Boras’ recommendation, returning to Stanford for his senior season. He’ll re-enter the Draft this coming June, hopeful that he’ll be able to land a larger bonus the next time around. Such a proposition is risky and there are zero guarantees.
Boras has made millions of dollars while getting the most he can for his clients, doing so through strategic negotiations and an unrivaled tenacity for utilizing the media to his advantage. To suggest that a team stood no chance up front for a draft pick, however, seems like a poor business practice. Had the Pirates offered Appel enough money he’d of surely signed with the organization. It’s the Boras Way.