In most cases, (Scott) Boras appears to be the best agent in the game. In this particular case, though, one has to wonder if Boras overplayed his hand by waiting.
Of course, Boras may separate himself from other agents and pull a three-year deal worth $30 million out of his back pocket within the next few weeks.
Two days later, Boras procured a three year, $35 million contract for Rafael Soriano. He most certainly did pull it out of his back pocket. Or, at least, there was a hole in his back pocket that allowed easy access to the area from which he did pull it out.
That's the magic of Scott Boras. There have been "Did Boras overplay his hand?" articles before. There will be "Did Boras overplay his hand?" articles in the future. And right now you're reading a "Did Boras overplay his hand?" article in the present. Which leads us to the question of the day:
Did Boras overplay his hand?
With everybody, that is. Not just Ryan Madson, who we'll get to in a moment. The offseason started just swimmingly for Boras, as he picked up two-year deals for Bruce Chen, organizational gadfly, and Willie Bloomquist. Again, Willie Bloomquist. Two-year deal. Boras, you sly devil, you.
And then news of a rumored Ryan Madson deal broke. Four years, $44 million. It was a huge deal for a closer. But it wasn't official.
Sam Levinson: Ruben, it's Sam. Reading about this rumored Madson deal.
Ruben Amaro, Jr.: Yeah. Not official yet.
Levinson: I was hoping you'd say that. Because here's something I wanted to ask you: Have you considered paying even more for a closer?
Amaro, Jr.: …
Amaro, Jr.: I'm listening.
That's when the dominoes fell. Quoth the Boras:
When pressed for details on the discussions, Boras reiterated, "We agreed to a four-year, $44 million offer, and Philadelphia decided to sign someone else."
Jonathan Papelbon became a Phillie very, very early in the offseason. Heath Bell joined the Marlins. And suddenly the walls started caving in. The Red Sox traded for Andrew Bailey. The closer market dried up. Madson and Francisco Cordero kept responding to the same Craigslist ads and showing up to the same job interviews. It was uncomfortable, at best. Madson settled for a one-year deal.
The Prince Fielder situation doesn't quite have the same feel, but it's getting there. The Fielder market started at a disadvantage, with the Yankees and Red Sox clearly staying away from him and Albert Pujols. Those two teams were usually the 800-pound gorilla with the 800,000,000-pound checkbook. For just about every premium free agent over the past two decades, the Yankees and Red Sox were effective decoys, even if they weren't especially interested. Not this time, and that was evident from the very start.
The Cubs were linked to Fielder, but then they acquired their first baseman of the future in a trade with the Padres. The Rangers might still be interested, but they're already committing a chunk of change to Yu Darvish, and they might be more interested in locking up Ian Kinsler right now. The Mariners might not be as interested as previously thought. The Rays need a first baseman, but they haven't collected nearly enough aluminum cans yet.
And the Nationals -- with the scars from previous Boras-related deals fresh in their mind -- can just sit back and lick their presidential muttonchops. They're the team that can use Fielder the most, but they're also aware that they're the team that Fielder can use the most. A $200 million contract just isn't going to happen. Maybe something would have been different before or right after the Pujols contract. Maybe Boras overplayed his hand.
Another Boras client, Edwin Jackson, is supposedly seeking $60 million over five years. That's funny. So am I. There's a pretty good chance that neither of us will win this particular battle. Jackson, Roy Oswalt, and Hiroki Kuroda are all playing a game of three-way chicken, with no one wanting to sign before the other pitchers. It's not too farfetched to think that if Oswalt and Kuroda sign, the Jackson market, short two suitors, will be disappointing.
I note all this with no particular relish. I'm not a member of the Boras anti-fan club. He's a guy who does his job well, and that job isn't ruining baseball. His job ends up shaving some decimal points off of ownership profit margins around the league, and I'm pretty sure I care about cricket more than I do about that.
But this might be the offseason that Boras overplayed his hand. Just like the last offseason. And probably like future offseasons. But we really mean it this time. The Madson contract just might be the beginning.