Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Magical Mind of Scott Boras

Say what you will about Scott Boras (liar, manipulator, greedy, sweet guy who loves taking romantic walks on the beach with that special someone), but the man comes up with some very interesting ideas:

“Teams currently obtain such players through the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings. The cost of each player is $50,000, and the player must be offered back at half-price if he doesn't remain on the major-league roster all season.

The Boras plan would generate considerably more sizzle – and dollars.

Each team would protect a set number of players: 40, the current number, or maybe even 45. Every other player in a club's farm system would be available through a blind posting process similar to the arrangement baseball maintains with Japanese clubs.


Boras, though, believes his plan would force clubs to place even greater emphasis on scouting and development, making talent evaluation that much more important.”

While his idea is incredibly creative, it’s neither necessary, nor in the best interest of baseball to implement.  For starters, there’s nothing wrong with the Rule 5 draft.  The draft serves its purpose by keeping teams from stockpiling young talent (not currently on the 40-man roster within three to four years of their signing) in their minor league systems.  Assuming Boras intends to keep the eligibility rules identical, the quality of the prospects available is likely to be fairly low.  While there will certainly be some diamonds in the rough, the pool will be primarily made up of raw Latin prospects in their early 20s and low reward post prospects in their late 20s.  If, on the other hand, Boras intends to change the eligibility rules (which it sounds like he’s suggesting) by making any prospect not currently on the 40 man roster eligible for posting, his system would change the way teams and farm systems are developed.  While this would greatly improve the quality of talent available, it could have a less than favorable impact on the development of certain prospects.

Secondly, a blind posting system could create something of an administrative nightmare.  The folks at MLB headquarters would be responsible for handling tens to hundreds of posting bids at any given time.  Mistakes are bound to happen occasionally.  (Let us not forget the debacle surrounding Pedro Alvarez at the draft pick signing deadline in August 2008.)  What recourse will a team have if they’re in advertently denied an opportunity to negotiate for a player’s services? 

Lastly, this gives big market clubs greater incentive to go “over slot” to sign draft picks in an effort to accumulate additional high end talent.  It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Scott Boras represents a large number of the top prospects in each amateur draft.  As a result, he will benefit from the larger bonuses given to amateurs.  Additionally, as big market teams build deeper farm systems, they’ll be able in better position to take some additional risks by selling surplus talent via Boras’s posting system.  The revenue generated via the posting process can then be funneled back into the Major League payroll.  The additional money flooding the free agent market will likely cause salary inflation.  Again, Boras, who just happens to represent a fair number of the biggest free agents every offseason, will reap the financial benefits.

I don’t want to give the impression that big market clubs will be the only ones benefiting from Boras’s proposed posting system.  Small and mid-market clubs will benefit to an extent as well, just not in the same manner.  Due to the likely salary inflation caused by an influx of additional revenue, small and mid-market teams will be at a greater disadvantage for signing big name free agents.  This may cause smaller market teams (like the Marlins or Pirates) to hoard the revenues obtained via posting rather than reinvesting it.  While this would positively affect an organization’s profit margin, it would have an adverse impact on not only the competitive balance, but also the overall quality of play on the baseball field. 

I know.  It’s shocking.  Scott Boras, knowing his dream of abolishing the amateur draft will never be realized, has come up with a way to build an alternate system that benefits him financially.  It’s pretty brilliant.  You can’t blame the guy for trying.  Fortunately, there are enough of us that are hip to his little charade.  Rarely does he have an idea that isn’t entirely self-serving.

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