Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Weaver May Not be Only Boras Client Going Back to Draft

The Arizona Republic reported today that the Diamondbacks top draft choice, shortstop Stephen Drew (taken 15th overall) has yet to agree to terms with the club. The paper reports that Drew and Boras are seeking a "substantial contract package."

It is becoming more and more apparent that Scott Boras is at his best representing established big league stars. In just this past offseason Boras clients Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek all broke the bank. But if one is looking for weakness in the Boras machine it appears to be with draft picks where General Managers are quick to point out that no one is a "sure thing" (see: Mauer, Joe). People get injured, players fail to live up to potential or weird things just happen. There is too much risk to throw guaranteed money at a player with no major league experience when you can just as easily throw it at a guy who does.

What happens if Boras' top two amateur clients fail to sign with their clubs and go back into the draft? Well for starters many consider the 2005 draft to be deeper, so that instantly reduces their value which was already reduced by the fact they are Boras' clients. Some analysts had projected Weaver to go number one overall before he signed with Boras. Because of fears they would not be able to sign the Long Beach State hurler many clubs passed on Weaver who dropped to Assuming that does not change, both players figure to (1) lose out on one year's salary; and (2) drop even further in the next draft. Scott Boras does not want this to happen. He is betting that the pressure on Bill Stoneman and Joe Garagiola, Jr. (Arizona GM) will be greater than that placed on him by his clients and force the clubs to capitulate to his demands. Having seen both of these men work, I doubt it. First for the Angels, they could always use another top arm in the system but Weaver will not be that significant in how this team does over the next two years. The Diamondbacks already have Alex Cintron and Matt Kata at short and second-base respectively so they are not exactly desperate for the help either. After the Angels put Boras on the hot-seat with their take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum the Diamondbacks would be fools to acquiesce to his outrageous demands now. Particularly since the pressure is now firmly on the agent for baseball's elite class. Bill Stoneman took one for the team (the team of MLB General Managers that is) and now it is Garagiola's turn to put the squeeze on Boras and force him to lose a lot of face with prospective amateur clients by having two high draft picks both return to the draft. A second draft that offers no guarantee of more money than they were offered the previous year and since it is a given they will hold-out, likely burns the better part of two years of their professional careers.

Perhaps in the '05 draft the Boras Clients will drop even further so that the Angels & D-Backs can select them again with the compensatory picks they will be given (sandwiched between the first and second rounds) for losing the rights to their top picks in 2004. Just to make things interesting maybe the Angels can take Drew and the D-Backs will get a shot at Weaver. Either way it would be great sport to see mega-multi-millionaire Boras twist in the wind for a change, instead of the countless GM's he has tortured in the past.

Increasingly it is looking like Boras will face a Kobyashi Maru scenario. If Stoneman and Garagiola hold the line, Boras will have to relent. Allowing his clients to re-enter the draft is too risky. If he were truly looking out for their best interests (as all agents claim they do) then Boras must secure the maximum amount of money he can for the first three years of their big league career. After they prove themselves over a few years he can do with Weaver & Drew what he did with Beltre, auction them off to the highest bidder. But he will need to get them into their respective big league camps. Stoneman and Garagiola will have to give in a little to Boras to keep him from looking a complete loser, but the victory will be theirs. If Boras' own ego gets in the way and he puts his own interests first he will gamble and let his young players go back into the draft where they could wind-up with the Yankees and Red Sox and get all the money they ever dreamt of or they could hook up with Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, finding themselves in an even worse financial hole. My best guess (and that's all any of us have at this point) is that both players will eventually sign, though because they gave an ultimatum it might be tougher for the Halos to lure back their top pick than the D-Backs. Hopefully a precedent has been set so that young players who were studs in college realize they have to prove they can do it on another level before being treated as baseball royalty.

Shame on the families of these players, especially Dodger pitcher and Weaver brother Jeff who should be advising his brother to sign the deal and get his career started. It is not like the Angels and D-Backs are trying to low-ball these guys. I don't think you will see either Weaver or Drew flipping burgers this summer to pay the bills.


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