Jan
15

A Torrid Love Affair

By

AP Images/Kathy Willens

Well, it’s done. The Yankees have signed Rafael Soriano for three years and $35 million dollars. Given that Cashman said he was not interested in giving up the first round pick, it came as a bit of a surprise. In retrospect, though, everyone should have expected this.

Two words: Scott Boras. Boras and the New York Yankees have a long history, tied together by big numbers made by superstar players. This isn’t the first time Boras (with some help from the Yankees ownership) has managed to wiggle his grubby little hands deep into pinstriped pockets. As a matter of fact, it’s happened over and over. It makes perfect sense that the team with enormous financial power spends a lot of time dealing with the agent known for record-breaking contracts. Two powerhouses with complementary results should go hand-in-hand, but most of the time, both sides can’t win in a negotiation.

Exhibit A: In 1998, Bernie Williams was coming off a .328/.408/.544 season where he banged 21 homers and 100 RBIs. The offseason started off pretty bleak, though: George Steinbrenner had made it quite clear that his highest offer for the beloved center fielder was five years and $60M and not a dime more. Boras insisted that he had seven- and eight-year offers from mystery teams. There were plenty of people who thought this was a load of bull, but Boras held his ground, so the Yankees eyed Albert Belle instead. But Boras fought. He brought up meetings with both the Diamondbacks and the much-hated Boston Red Sox, who had were rumored to offer our dear Bernie seven years and $90M. When Belle signed with the Orioles, Boras pounced, and before anyone knew it, Williams was a Yankee to the tune of seven years and $87.5M, way above what Steinbrenner originally wanted to pay. In the end, the contract was a pretty good one: Belle suffered hip issues that knocked him out of baseball just two years later, and Bernie hit .298/.386/.480 and signed on for one last year in 2006.

Exhibit B: Alex Rodriguez. People could write books about the Rodriguez-Boras relationship, to say the least. In another example of shrewd Boras negotiating, Alex Rodriguez snapped himself up a 10-year, $252M contract from the Rangers. The franchise seemed to have forgotten they actually had to have that money to pay it, and began searching for trade options. In 2003, there was an attempt to trade Rodriguez to the Red Sox, but the complicated negotiation would have involved losing $30M. Interestingly enough, the trade fell through not because of Boras (who was fine with Rodriguez losing the cash), but the MLBPA, who felt that losing guaranteed contract money set a bad precedent. As per usual though, Red Sox loss was Yankee gain, and the Yankees acquired Rodriguez in February of 2004. But where Boras really showed off his skills was when Rodriguez opted out of the remaining three years and $72M of his contract in 2007 in favor of renegotiation. This decision, as I’m sure you all remember, was leaked during the 2007 World Series and I bet the New York Post had some really, really good front covers discussing the matter in their, ah, unique way. To calm the storm of New York rage, Rodriguez tried to soothe things by contacting the Yankees office directly, at the advice of Warren Buffet. As Rodriguez attempted to repair his public image (never his strong front) Boras took advantage of the fluctuations of the Yankees front office to secure the absolutely insanely absurd 10 year/$275M contract Rodriguez plays under today. He had a bigger hand in the incentives: each time Rodriguez passes a person on the all-time home run list, it’s an additional $6M in his pocket. If Rodriguez becomes the all-time home run leader, his contract will exceed $300M, the first ever in professional sports. I’m sure I’m not the only one who grimaces and tries to ignore how much we’re paying A-Rod in favor of the numbers he puts up, but Boras will be Boras. Truly the best worst contract ever.

I’m glad to say that the story for Johnny Damon is much shorter and sweeter. It was December 2005 and the Boston Red Sox  refused to budge on their 3-year contract offer for their center fielder, the caveman-like Johnny Damon. Damon, who had already admitted that he doesn’t want to be a Yankee, was looking for more than three years, and the Sox would not negotiate down from Boras‘ five-year plan. Boras even tried to get in contact with the Sox’s owner, Larry Luchino, but to no avail, and soon enough, Damon was a Yankee to the tune of four years and $52M. He would go on to hit .285/.363/.458 in the pinstripes and looked significantly less like a yeti, both great things about his tenure in the Bronx. I’m pretty sure I’ll always remember his 2009 double steal against the Phillies. The story has a sad note for everyone who loved Damon as a Yankee, though, and for once Boras’ demand for cash came back to bite his client. Damon demanded no less than the $13M he was paid for any further deals, and the Yankees said no. When they refused to budge, Damon was forced to take a one year, $8M offer for the Tigers. He’s a free agent now, so we’ll have to see how that ends up.

The story continues. In 2008-09 offseason, the Yankees were coming off their first season without October baseball since the strike, and they were out for blood. What do you do when you’re the New York Yankees and you want to win? You use your biggest advantage: in a mindboggling display of financial might, the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and AJ Burnett. Teixeira, another Boras client, picked up the record for highest paid first baseman with an eight year, $180M contract of his own. While Teixeira’s 2009 numbers were strong (he lead the league in RBIs and home runs), his glacially slow start in 2010 contributed to a down season. Here’s hoping that he’ll be make himself close to worth the $22.5M he’ll be getting in 2011.

Soriano is only another chapter in the long story between Boras and the Yankees. “Like Williams and Rodriguez, he secured himself an exorbitant amount of money; his numbers from the previous year were stellar enough to pretend to justify both the years and the cost, at least for the Yankees. think it’s safe to say that Soriano and his three year, $35M contract won’t be the last time these two powerhouses meet. Andrew Brackman, for example, is a Boras client, and I’m interested to see how he develops as a pitcher and what Boras can do for him. While Boras clients almost never completely live up to their contracts, there is no doubt many of his clients have been incredibly important and still quite valuable to the current Yankees and those of the recent past. Let’s hope Soriano continues this trend.

Categories : Transactions
  • http://twitter.com/AndrewLeighNYC Andrew

    Boras already did a ton for Brackman, he got him a pretty nice major league deal and a spot on the 40 man roster right out of the chute, with the team knowing he’d need elbow surgery. It could obviously work out for the Yankees if he makes the bigs and pitches well, but, Boras can’t go much higher w/ that particular client as of now.

    As to the team/agent relationship, I think the Yankees, in the case of Teix and Damon, saw good values that they could afford and that would obviously help the team, and ignored all the Boras nonsense he wields through the press and just made solid deals.

    Soriano, A-Rod, Bernie, clearly instances of overpaying just to secure the player, which I don’t think is the right strategy with Boras clients. He keeps pushing when he realizes teams really want Player X, and that’s how you end up with extra years, incentives, opt outs, etc.

  • Gonzo

    The title sounds like the story Brokeback Mountain. I love it! The body proves that the Yankees can’t quit Boras.

  • crawdaddy

    I’m not so sure about the accuracy of this story. Didn’t Bernie personally called up George and pleaded with him that he wanted to remain a Yankee which enticed George to up his offer and sign Bernie.

    • bakekrukow412

      Ugh. Scott Boras really looks like someone, but I can’t place it.

      • Dr Van Nostrand

        kevin spacey? a little in that photo at least

        • bakekrukow412

          not bad. actually, to me he’s looking like a young larry bowa

  • BMcP

    As to accuracy, I’d start with the first sentence – fairly sure Soriano hasn’t signed yet.

    • new guy in town

      Don’t be one of those guys who’s like:

      “Noooooooo, he’s not signed until he passes his physical!!!!!!”

      Nobody ever fails the physical unless they’re Albert Haynesworth

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Or Jaret Wright. In which case they sign you anyway.

      • fire levine

        Here’s to hoping he sneezes or somethin and fails his physical. Gosh I hate this deal

  • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

    Awesome post. I was thinking about this the other day, that the Yankees have (yet) to get one of those truly brutal Boras contracts*. Even if Soriano is only good for a year or two, I don’t think he’ll even qualify with the Dreiforts of the world. The Yankees have yet to overpay for a guy who didn’t produce, like many of Boras’ clients have after the big contracts.

    *A-Rod’s contract is obviously a disaster, but as of now, he’s at least still producing on the field, just not up to a $30 million/year level.

    • http://twitter.com/AndrewLeighNYC Andrew

      Agree but the length on both A-Rod and Teixeira’s contracts set them up to potentially become albatrosses. But as of now, definitely–they got good offensive years out of Damon and Bernie and even the mega-deals for Teix and Alex don’t impair their budgetary flexibility, it would seem (considering relievers are getting $12 mill a year).

      • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

        I think the Tex deal will be fine, it’s over at 36 (I believe), so it doesn’t take him into his late 30′s. A-Rod, I’m guessing (hoping, praying) will at least be able to hit into his late 30′s, maybe early 40′s. He’ll be a big overpay, but hopefully can provide some value. I’d rather spend $25 million on a $15 million player than spend $15 million on a useless player. They certainly could become albatrosses though, but at least the Yankees are overpaying for great players, not paying Darren Dreifort and Chan Ho Park the huge bucks.

        • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S.

          A-Rod at 42:

          .250/.340/.450, 90 games at DH, 10 at some other position, 15 home runs.

          • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

            So few players even play until age 42 that it’s hard to find someone other than Barry Bonds who has put up anything close to respectable offensive numbers at that age.

            • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S.

              A-Rod is one of few players on Bonds’ plane of ability.

              • Jimmy McNulty

                Even then, he’s still about 75-80% of his ability.

                • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

                  Until 2001-2004 when Bonds went completely bezerk he basically had A-Rod’s career line. (No, I’m in no way saying A-Rod’s gonna do that.)

  • Martin Stezano

    You have to hand it to Boras. No matter how awful a person he seems to be, and how much people talk about that, he still gets his job done. If teams are willing to not only negotiate with him, but constantly acquiesce to his demands, he’s gotta be recognized as the premier sports agent (and probable douche bag) in the world. I do, however, pray for his eventual downfall.

    • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

      What has he ever done that makes him seem like an awful person? I mean, he does his job. He gets the most money for his clients and for himself and his business. He doesn’t do anything illegal or immoral as far as I know. People associate him with the greed of the business, which is fair, but I don’t see how you can call him an awful person.

      • Martin Stezano

        You’re absolutely right about that. I was basing it on the bullying and greedy negotiating tactics he is known for. He could be the best guy ever away from work. We do tend to make people heroes and villains based on their public personas though. Can you really picture him going home, shaking hands and kissing babies? Not before signing a deal with the baby. 4 kisses with an opt out clause after the second and third kisses?

      • bpdelia

        aside from the recently reported immoral and arguably predatory loans to south american teenagers you mean?

        • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

          He was investigated and it was proven he didn’t break any rules. Look it up, he wasn’t even fined.

  • bpdelia

    And, though obviously he isn’t alone in this, being the epitome of ostentatious wealth and over valuing of entertainment in our culture.
    I don’t know the man but people like Boras clearly have a hand in a culture run amok. I’m positive I would be unable to make my living by haveing to argue with a straight face over 15 more million dollars. It is what it is, but he is anohter sign of a society which is rapidly stratifying along uncrossable generational wealth lines.
    So I’m not gonna be nominating him for good guy of the year awards

    • dalelama

      Boring…..

      • bpdelia

        hey listen, the question was “what has he done that is immoral” he then went on to say “he gets themost money for his clients, himself, and his business.”

        Well there are quite a few people who think that “getting the most money for his clients, himself, and his businees” regardless of tactics or circumstances is in fact immoral.
        There is a finiet amount of $$ available at any one moment in time. A person’s whose driving force is to amass as much of that as possible for himself and his client (through often outrageous distortions of fact i.e Arod adds a billion dollars to the teams value) is being immoral. DIstortions of any truth for personal monetary gain is, for many people, immoral period.

        SO we can disagree about whether thats so but it can’t be glossed over. There is a serous argument to be made about the morality of making as much cash as you can damn the consequences and the lies you need to tell to get it.

  • http://yanksdraftsandprospects.blogspot.com/ Jake H

    Boras is a mad genius. He must know mind control or something.

    • Timber

      Nah, he just mind-fucks teams really hard

      Trivia: Guess what movie that term (mind fuck) is from??

      • Jimmy McNulty

        It’s been used in several movies, actually.

      • MStezano

        Get Him to the Greek, most recently. At least that I’ve seen.

  • Brian Paul

    Awesome post! Definitely love your writing style! It really compliments that of Mike Joe and Ben nicely! Strong topic too. Boras and the Yanks have always operated in their own realm, with or without the market.

    Keep up the good work!