Boras hole burying Alvarez?by John Brattain
August 30, 2008
Hypnotism? Embarrassing photographs? (If there are, they'll be on Deadspin next week, so no biggie). Family member held hostage? Under the influence of potent pharmaceuticals? Not suffering from stupidity because he’s too busy enjoying the experience?
I speak of course of J.P. Ricciardi, I mean Barry Bonds … no, I mean Brad Wilkerson.
Bennybeth? (Whoa … Fastball.com flashback—you kind of had to be there)
Do I write about anybody else?
(rifles through notes)
Lessee … collusion, need a big bat, runners left in scoring position, random short jokes, wasted pitching gems.
Hmmm … Jack Kevorkian’s guide to being a Blue Jays fan (screw that—I ghostwrote that bad boy … heh—that “some people are alive only because it’s illegal to kill them” line was genius, sheer genius … best gag I ever plagiarized).
I’m out of my mind—be back in a minute.
Ah—here we are … Pedro Alvarez.
I don’t get why he’s letting Scott Boras dick (my word processor’s spell check wanted me to change that to “Boras’s dick" … hilarious—my computer has a potty mouth) around with his career like this—I can only assume Boras has told him that he can get him into free agency. There’s no way any rational human being not under the influence of street narcotics or bathtub gin would agree to this idiocy for $200,000 (or however much more he's seeking).
I mean—this is about three months of big league service; 90-odd games playing at the major league minimum.
Alvarez can double that by reaching the majors a year earlier than he would by holding out. Teams do everything using options to delay a player qualifying for arbitration and free agency rights and here Alvarez is letting Boras delay that even further.
The difference between reaching free agency before his 30th birthday is worth tens of millions of dollars. The more time before the big 3-0 and your first crack at free agency is the difference between the length of Alvarez’s first free market contract and the number of zeroes behind his annual salary.
This is why I have to think Boras has said he’s got a good shot at getting Alvarez his freedom. I cannot believe that nobody has explained to this kid the opportunity cost he is torching with this gambit.
The thing is—even if the Pirates negotiated past the deadline … so did Boras. The fact he didn’t stop negotiating (or inform his client the deadline had passed) as the clock struck midnight makes him complicit in the whole affair and implies consent. He cannot cry foul—especially when he did so much to keep his client away from speaking with the Pirates until the zero hour.
Boras states he wants to renegotiate the contract.
If they went past the deadline then there is no contract to renegotiate—either they have a deal or they do not. Either it’s a valid contract or it isn’t—if it isn’t, then I cannot see an arbitrator granting free agency for a mistake made by both sides of a negotiation.
There’s nothing in the collective bargaining agreement that stipulates that to be the penalty for going past the signing deadline. Were that the case, then why even negotiate? Just let the deadline come and go and claim free agency.
It cannot be Boras claiming bad-faith negotiating by the Pirates when there are all kinds of instances in the past where he delayed negotiations, stalled, kept the parties apart, gave addresses where his client would not be all in order to create a loophole to file for free agency.
He was as big an obstacle to having sufficient time to negotiate between the Pirates and Alvarez as the club was; Boras is notorious for leaving things until the last minute to create leverage. If negotiations went past the deadline, can he say he was completely innocent for that situation arising? It’s like a relief pitcher cannot create his own save situation—Boras cannot cause a set of circumstances and later cry foul when those circumstances cause a problem.
I can see an arbitrator (Shyam Das) possibly deciding to have the parties renegotiate, I can see him declaring the contract void and having Alvarez go back into the draft but I cannot see him granting a free agency award or striking down a collectively bargained provision (the draft signing deadline). The collective bargaining agreement stipulates the remedy to a situation where an amateur player doesn't sign by the deadline—he sits out until the following year's draft. Das has no authority to dictate a remedy not the result of collective bargaining.
An arbitrator can only interpret the collective bargaining agreement, decide if there's a violation and rule according to the remedies agreed to through arms' length, good faith bargaining. He cannot impose his own version of frontier justice. Unless there is a renegotiation provision in such instances, I cannot see how Das can order them to re-do the contract. Unless bad faith can be proven (and I'm sure the Pirates can make a case against Boras as well), I am not certain Das can award free agency in any event. A contract was tendered according to the rules—the only point of dispute is the timing of Alvarez's acceptance; that determines whether the contract is valid or not—not whether there was a good-faith negotiation.
Boras can request free agency, but this isn't Messersmith/McNally that revolved around the meaning of a phrase in the uniform players contract about the meaning of the option year—there is no phrase regarding a free agency claim being disputed; just whether the contract is binding or Alvarez returns to the draft next year.
The union could win its case, but Boras and Alvarez will likely lose the war in that they have lost $6 million and Alvarez will have to wait an extra year to begin his career in affiliated baseball and it will take that much longer to reach arbitration and free agency thresholds.
Even if Boras wins a renegotiation—why would the Pirates offer a nickel more? Alvarez is worth $6 million to them and there’s no need to pay any more than that. Why would another round of negotiations turn out any differently? Boras would take it down to the wire—there'd be another staredown and we'd have this drawn-out process leading back to square one. Even if they do, Alvarez is still the biggest loser in all this—he’s lost development time, delayed the time when he could qualify for arbitration and free agency, blown a lot of goodwill and already made himself out to look like a colossal jackass to baseball fans. I can't see how this would offset what has been lost—financially or otherwise.
Nice job by your agent there.
If this was a ploy by Boras to get a few extra dollars for his client by strong-arming the Pirates—and he never thought that the MLBPA would become involved since he expected the Bucs to capitulate—then it could fail in catastrophic mode. The union may have wished to let sleeping dogs lie, but this issue has made so much noise it is now impossible for Fehr and Co. to ignore an outright violation of the CBA.
If that's the case, Boras might win only in the sense that the club didn't get his client at a price acceptable to him but won't win in the sense that he gets another shot at negotiating the contract. If I had to hazard a guess, Das realizes this and will rule that going forward, the deadline is cast in stone and will more clearly define the obligations of the parties before the midnight hour arrives and uphold this year's signings simply because of the complications that would arise. After all, what about previous violations of the rule?
I assume Boras is doing this on the basis of he has nothing to lose (Alvarez being another matter) but if the contract is declared null and void, then Alvarez will probably seek out different representation.
In a sense, a victory by the MLBPA and a ruling that the deal is void—costing Alvarez big time—could be a major win for MLB in that it would make future prospects leery of being advised by Boras lest they see $6 million go up in smoke.
I honestly think Alvarez is a pawn in Boras’ ongoing war against the amateur draft and MLB in general. If he does get a little more for his client, he will still be a loser in the long run.
I realize these young men and their families have to bear a degree of responsibility in these negotiations, but it would be nice if the Scott Borases and the Tommy Tanzers (Matt Harrington’s advisor) would be held accountable when a young man loses a bunch of money from listening to a fast-talking adviser (agent). Perhaps if agents were required to compensate 75 percent of lost bonuses if a player fails to have a career that match compensation-wise what the agent, errr, adviser recommends he turn down they'd be less inclined to play poker with young men's careers.
That way, the agent isn’t just gambling with some naïve kid’s money; he’s got to lay down some chips of his own. After all, if this blows up and Alvarez becomes the next Harrington—well, Boras will still be rich and Alvarez is S.O.L. If the agent convinces somebody to gamble money in hand and his career promising/assuring that he can get him more and it doesn’t materialize—then there should be some recourse if for no other reason it might rein in the agendas of guys like Boras.
If he (or any agent) wants to challenge the system, he needs a pawn—we'll call it a service charge for hiring the prospect as a pawn. People like Boras are doing this for their own enrichment despite their lofty rhetoric. Were Boras doing this pro bono, then I might believe he has higher motives but make no mistake—he’s promising this kid a few extra thousand in hopes of making millions more in future drafts.
It’s clear that Boras is more concerned about his own future than he is about Alvarez’s (or for that matter, Eric Hosmer's)—I pray he and his family figure this out before much longer.
Our good friend, and THT stalwart, John Brattain passed away on March 24, 2009. John was a prolific writer, whose work can also be read at Sympatico/MSN Sports and Baseball Digest Daily. John's work was also featured at USA Today, MLBtalk, ESPN Insider, Baseball Prospectus, The Baseball Analysts and The Baseball Journals. Never afraid to express himself in any medium, he was also a frequent radio speaker.