Monday, January 30, 2012

Scott Boras, "business partner"

Scott Boras has found a sucker in Mike Ilitch, and has
convinced Ilitch that's a good thing.
This piece from the Detroit Free Press, contains a Scott Boras quote that cries out for some analysis:

"I told (Tigers owner Mike Ilitch), 'This is never easy, sir, because you're going to have to sign contracts that people are going to tell you aren't good contracts. My job is to make them good contracts by getting those players to perform and help you.' "

Since that purported conversation after the Tigers 119-loss season in 2003, the Tigers (and Ilitch) have been a favored landing place for Boras clients. And the Tigers have been to a World Series (2006) and won a division title (2011), which is certainly an improvement over 119 losses.

But have the Tigers' deals with Boras' clients been "good contracts?" It depends on how you want to define good. Some cases: 

Magglio Ordonez pulled in a bit less than $100 million for Ilitch and Co. over the past seven seasons; he had one huge season, a few good ones, and was a part-time player in three. Good contract or bad?

Ivan Rodriguez got $48.5 million over five years from the Tigers, including the three biggest salaries of his illustrious career; his production sank like a stone during that time. 

Rick Porcello, billed as an instant ace, got a record-setting $11.1 million deal coming out of high school. He has turned into Nick Blackburn — a low-strikeout back-of-the-rotation guy. (He also has a different agent now.) And now he's turning really expensive.

Last week Boras stuck Ilitch with Prince Fielder, a nine-year solution to the Tigers' one-year problem (the injury that will keep DH Victor Martinez out for 2012). Fielder's bat may make him worth his bloated salary for a while; like Mags and Pudge, he'll be a liability later in the deal.

Ilitch is willing to run pretty big operating deficits in pursuit of a few more wins. Boras is quite willing to help him run up those deficits, just as he helped Tom Hicks run the Texas Rangers into bankruptcy. The Rangers didn't grow into the two-time AL World Series representative that they are now until they shook their addiction to Boras clients. 

Odds are the Fielder deal won't swamp Ilitch financially in the way the Alex Rodriguez contract did Hicks. But Ilitch seems to me too much a sucker for Boras' sales pitch. Boras ain't his partner; he's the employee of some of his employees. Boras' goal is to extract Ilitch's money.

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