Scott Boras is the Devil

Courtesy: ESPN.com

So says the fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, as the No.8 overall selection, Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, in the recent MLB Draft didn’t sign a contract with the Bucs before the 5:00 PM EST deadline on Friday. Appel returns to the Cardinal for his senior season, hoping to cash in on another solid season to give himself a raise in the 2013 MLB Draft.

There are a few problems with this:

1) What if Appel loses his stuff and doesn’t dominate, causing a slip in the draft?

2) What if Appel’s elbow or shoulder pops and he misses the season, which would cause a slip in the draft?

3) What if Appel has Scott Boras as an agent next season and he slips further than he did this year in the draft?

Mark Appel is taking a huge risk with this move. If his ultimate goal in life was to play professional baseball, then this wasn’t about the money. But it was. It always is when you hire Scott Boras to be your agent. The Pirates offered Appel $3.8 million, well-above the $2.9 slot recommendation.

Due to the new MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement, “Teams may only sign Draft picks to Minor League contracts and will be taxed and/or penalized for exceeding the designated signing bonuses (previously called slot recommendations) for the sum of their picks in the first 10 rounds.” Teams are handcuffed when it comes to signing players with high demands, as clubs are forced to pay significant penalties when they go over the recommended slots.

Can Appel really think that he is going to get more money? If Appel has Boras again in 2013 and he falls in the draft due to signability, which was an issue this season and was ultimately true, what happens? This could be a slippery slope for Appel.

The story of Matt Harrington returns…

  • 2000 – Drafted by the Colorado Rockies 7th overall. Agent Tommy Tanzer wanted a $4.95 million signing bonus (more than the 1999 1st overall pick, Josh Hamilton), but the Rockies offer a $4 million bonus and a guaranteed call-up by the end of the 2002 season. Not a bad deal for a high school kid, right? Nope. Harrington doesn’t sign and goes to Independent Leagues, where he struggles, to keep his arm fresh.
  • 2001 – Harrington drops Tanzer and signs on with Scott Boras. Harrington is drafted in the second round, 58th overall, by the San Diego Padres. He is offered $1.2 million to sign, but Boras wanted twice as much. Harrington, again, doesn’t sign and goes back to struggling in the Independent League.
  • 2002 – Harrington was selected in the 13th round, 374th overall, by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They were offering the $5,000-200,000 bonuses that were standard for that area of the draft, but, again, Harrington didn’t sign.
  • 2003 – Harrington was selected in the 24th round, 711th overall, by the Cincinnati Reds. There aren’t numbers available for what he was offered, but, again, Harrington didn’t sign.
  • 2004 – Harrington was selected in the 36th round, 1,089th overall, by the New York Yankees. Harrington would need rotator cuff surgery and the Yankees didn’t even offer him a contract.

In 2009, Amy Nelson of ESPN reported that Harrington was working at a Costco store in the tire department. He was making $11.50 per hour.

Greed isn’t anything new in the free agency era, otherwise you wouldn’t have seen Johnny Damon leave the Boston Red Sox for the New York Yankees after the 2004 World Championship season. However, greed in MLB never seemed so apparent until Scott Boras came along. Before Boras arrived, free agency was to give players the right to be “free” from being lifers for teams, being limited to whatever the team that signed them was willing to give them. Then, Boras started making waves.

  • 1988 – Andy Benes, represented by Boras, signs for a then-record $235,000 signing bonus upon being drafted by the San Diego Padres.
  • 1989 – Ben McDonald, selected No.1 overall by the Baltimore Orioles, receives the first multi-year major league contract ever given to a baseball-only amateur, a $1.01 million deal with a $350,000 signing bonus.
  • 1990 – Todd Van Poppel, selected 14th overall by the Oakland A’s, gets a guaranteed $1.2 million major league contract with a $500,000 signing bonus
  • 1991 – Brien Taylor, selected No.1 overall by the New York Yankees, gets a record $1.55 million signing bonus.
  • 1993 – Alex Rodriguez goes against Scott Boras’ advice and takes $1.3 million fro the Seattle Mariners. Boras was demanding $3 million.
  • 1996 – Boras finds a loop-hole that allows Matt White (7th overall pick by the San Francisco Giants) and Bobby Seay (12th overall pick by the Chicago White Sox) to become free agents. White gets $10.2 million and Seay gets $3 million from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as free agent signings. MLB is forced to change rules.
  • 1997 – J.D. Drew rejects a $3 million offer from the Philadelphia Phillies after being drafted 2nd overall. Boras tries to make Drew a free agent, but MLB changes the rules so that he isn’t. Drew re-enters the draft in 1998 and is selected 5th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals. Drew signs for $3 million.
  • 2000 – Landon Powell gets his GED in his junior year and enters the MLB Draft (like Bryce Harper). He went undrafted due to eligibility questions…or was it Scott Boras? He went to the University of Southern California and was drafted in 2004 (24th overall) by Oakland.
  • 2007 – MLB changes the signing deadline for draft picks to August 15 due to the long waiting periods for Boras clients like Jered Weaver and Jason Varitek.

The list goes on and on and you can find all of Boras’ antics HERE, and it will certainly continue to grow. Scott Boras is an excellent agent, but he is not great for baseball. He does what he is supposed to do: he gets the best deal for his player. It is debatable as to whether he is always getting the best deal, especially in cases like Mark Appel.

Is the calculated risk of re-entering the MLB Draft going to work out in this case? After all, Appel was just 18-10 with a 3.22 ERA in 271.1 innings at Stanford, including his 10-2 season in 2012, when he posted a 2.56 ERA in 123 innings. Not that those numbers are bad, but it isn’t like he is a generational talent like Mark Prior or Stephen Strasburg were coming out of college. What if the talent is better next season? This year’s draft was supposed to be weak, with high-talent high school players, but not too many top-notch college guys.

Boras strikes again. We’ll see how valuable Mark Appel’s Stanford degree is if he flops, and we’ll definitely be watching to see if his arm is as impressive when he battles the PAC-12 in 2013.

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