Wasn’t the Felipe Lopez situation an example where an agent was branded a failure for not getting his client a reasonable contract? Also, I remember Mark Ellis’ contract being described as very team friendly, and his agent being questioned for not persuading his client to at least test the market. He didn’t sign until after the ’08 season, and would’ve been a FA after the WS. Despite his surgery, many viewed the contract as far beneath his value.
Not sure what your point is. Evaluating an agent is much more difficult than evaluating a GM (though I would say that’s more difficult than we usually make it). Agents work at the mercy of their clients: even if Longoria’s agent counseled against the ‘team-friendly’ deal, Longoria may have valued the security/loyalty more than a potentially bigger payday in the future. Or he loves living in Tampa Bay. Or whatever.
So getting the largest money deal for a client isn’t necessarily success (though many people would say it is), and signing a team friendly deal may be success depending on a client’s criteria. As fans, not sure how I measure a good agent vs. a bad one, or why I care.
Peter Greenburg fucked up royally when he allowed the Mets to buy out Reyes’ arb years and first year of FA for ~$5.5 million/year. At least the Longoria contract gave him long-term security in the years he was “only” making six figures.
Exactly. A player putting sentiment over money is reasonable, because the goal of a player is not necessarily to make as much money as possible. A GM who does the same is foolish, since we know the goal of the team is to win games.
I would also separate out the player from the agent. The agent has quite different incentives as exemplified by Boras. Because he is able to spread the risk across multiple clients, the agent has the incentive to go for broke on every contract. Sometimes that doesn’t work out so well for the player (see Johnny Damon and even to a certain extent Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez).
It is worth pointing out that the players/agents have to eventually take what is out there on the market while theoretically GM/owners essentially set the market. Thus, it is easier for GMs to err on the higher side of what a player is worth than it is for an agent to find a way to take a significantly below market deal.
Comment by walkoffblast — April 28, 2010 @ 4:28 pm
Reyes would have been hitting free agency ,last winter coming off a disastrous 2009 season. Would he have gotten more than the $20M he’ll likely get in 2010 and 2011??
He probably could have gotten a little more going year to year in arb, but he probably did better in 2010 this way.
I don’t disagree with you *that* much, but this contract looked a LOT worse a year or two ago. And that is why players do this, Reyes traded some upside for $23M GUARANTEED. That’s the key. You put $23M guaranteed in front of a 23 year old kid, most of the time it’s not a bad decision to do that. He’d have been hitting free agency at 29 with another chance to cash in.
I just happened to be on former running back (and Philly) Ricky Williams wikipedia page. Its funny because even though its not his baseball contract that’s talked about, they do bring up the “No Limit” agency and Master P that he hired to negotiate his contract with the Saints and how ridiculed they were for it being an extremely incentive-laden deal, and incentives that would have been very hard to reach when he could have just gotten a lot of guaranteed money. All that ridicule leading Williams to fire Master P and No Limit and go to a real agent.
It happens (praising/criticizing agents) its just that there aren’t many stars in the talent agent business and we only pay attention to the star names (the player and the GM and Scott Boras) and Scott Boras just never does anything you can ridicule from a business standpoint.
I know that Joe Mauer got an amazing contract and that he pulled it off in Minnesota where he’s “supposed” to take a hometown discount you might say and the Twins don’t spend that much money on anyone, but everyone came out of it saying “win-win” and it’s true that it is, but the agent did an amazing job of getting the most out of the Twins he could get. I know he’s with a small agency, and that’s all I know. I don’t know what his agents name is and because I will never hire a sports agent.. i really don’t care.
There’s no reason to think he wouldn’t have done better in arbitration, even with this worst-case scenario happening. He was coming off a 5+ win season, and ripped off two more right after that. The gaudy steal totals and the flashy D probably gets noticed. He just gave the team an insane discount for the security, instead of a rational one.
Matt, the one case that jumps to mind is Evan Longoria. Dave Cameron in particular has been brutal in his appraisal of Longoria’s agent.
Comment by Matthew Bultitude — April 28, 2010 @ 5:25 pm
Another thing to consider in regards to this is that there may be a bias as to which players use which agents. Players who are more apt to give a hometown discount, etc, are drawn to different agents than those that care only about the highest bid.
Sounds to me like the start of a great series: “Ranking the Agents.”
In addition to dollars/years, we’d also have to rank them on their fees, ability to structure contracts to avoid taxes, etc. The anti-saber crowd can insist that we really should be discussing intangibles, like which ones are “trustworthy.”
Finally, we can project player performance per team dollar spent depending on the agent. Now get to work!
I seem to recall Scott Boras getting quite a bit of flack for his handling of Johnny Damon this past offseason. I think a lot of that died down once he signed a deal which, although not terrible, wasn’t as good as what was offered earlier in the process. Ultimately, though, it’s hard to judge agents because their client list is much more difficult to manage and assess, especially at the lower end of the pay scale, where most of their clients lie.
In the case of the Howard contract, one could argue that Howard got a great deal, but it’s also conceivable that if the economy suddenly rebounds and he continues to post high RBI totals, that he might’ve gotten as much or more in FA. Personally, I doubt it, but the chance is there.
If Ryan Howard were a free agent in this market, he never gets that deal. The agent had to have done a hell of a sales job, or the Phillies know more about the future market for FA than we do (which is possible since a new players agreement is coming up, and MLB is a monopoly).
I can’t fathom what the Phillies were thinking on Howard, maybe they are not aware that those hitters who hit better as they aged were performance enhanced, or maybe they have some cocktail that evade testing, or perhaps they have really great insurance on the contract. Heck Jason Bay had a higher WAR and could not come close to what Howard is getting.
I find it extremely interesting how fans tend to take managements side over players (workers) in such evaluations. Maybe most fans posting have their own business or something.
The only true measure of how an agent performs is how popular he is with the players. Longorias agent may be out of a job, whomever he is, while Howards agent is likely going to be in large demand.
Players have 5-10 year careers on average, some teams have been in business and earning profits for over a century. Players have to go for the dollars wherever it leads them, except for players who have had relatively long careers and can afford the luxury of taking a team discount to stay in a place they like. Sometimes players like Beckett prefer to lock up a long term deal at below market price for security out of fear their arm may not hold up before they become a FA.
Not agent-specific, but if you’re going to call someone out for signing a bad contract, there’s only three people to blame: the player, the GM/Owner, the agent. I wonder if Longo knows how much money he left on the table, and if he does, I wonder if he blames his agent.
This seems like the easiest explanation. I rarely care how well a particular player does or how well an agent does for them financially. But I care an awful lot about how the GM of my team does with each particular deal as that can affect future deals for the team, my judgement of him, etc
No one complains about an agent doing their job badly because many of the top paid MLB players out there will make more than half of their fan base combined over any given period. It’s really disgusting. I think most fans and analysts, while not being pro-ownership per se, we are all ‘pro-team’. We always love to see teams get the most for their money because it means that they can be more competitive, and in the end, isn’t that what we all want as baseball fans?
How many times can we watch the same five teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Dodgers, Angels) go to the post season before we just get bored and sigh it off? I know I’m getting tired of it. But should Boston and New York get knocked out by Tampa Bay and the Mariners? That’s interesting and I’m going to be glued to my TV the entire time!
As long as there is such a budget disparity between teams we’re going to inherently root for the little guys knowing that this may be their only shot at a title. Personally, I’m so disgusted by the large contracts that when New York said no to Damon and sent Matsui packing I was elated! One can only hope that this will become a trend for the Yankees and we’ll be able to call the 2009 off season as the end of the ‘Boras Age’ in baseball where over hyped players with major flaws no longer get the massive contracts and managers start looking at the whole player and not just the monster numbers that they can put up at the plate but personality issues (ahem! Bradley!) and defensive issues (Damon/Bay!). But perhaps I’m just a dreamer believing in a day when the greed of players is out matched by team loyalty and loyalty to the fans.
He was coming off a 5 win season. But arbitration uses outdated stats not WAR. I’m not sure there’s anyway to be certain he wouldn’t have done any better in arbitration I really can’t think of any similar players who have gone to arbitration recently, but I do know that pretty much all of the big arbitration pay days go to guys who hit lots of homers and get rbis, because the stats they use.
That’s why I mentioned his gaudy steal totals. That would have been noticed, and he also consistently was in the top-ten in runs scored. While his UZR likely would have no impact, his defense was also flashy good, so I’m not sure if that would have impacted things. Regardless, even old-school stats knew Reyes was really freaking good, and he’d have gotten paid, IMO.
Still dont think its fair to blame Longoria’s agent. He was offered 17m not even a week into his pro career, we’ve seen highly praised players fail before without making anything in the bigs; if I’m 21-22 and played 5 games in the majors and I get an offer of 17m guaranteed then you have to take that to protect you and your family.
He’ll make his 200m on his next contract
What if Alex Gordon signed that same contract a week into his career? He was the Next Big Thing, maybe he still is, but if he signed that contract would the GM be praised for that now? Or would the agent be praised for geting an unproved kid 17m?
Orlando Hudson’s agent has to fall in the misinformed/incompetent category, IMO. Orlando has been handed a guaranteed total of just over $8mm in 2009-2010 (thought incentives added $4mm more in LA), while guys like Edgar Renteria (twice as much) and Rafael Furcal (almost 5 times as much) are being paid handsomely.
Orlando was also offered a 3-year, $24mm extension in Arizona, which was turned down.
This has forced Orlando to essentially waste his last chance at signing a lucrative contract that would secure him financially for the rest of time (and his only chance, at age 32), and pushed him into baseball’s version of purgatory with one-year deals.
I’m amazed at how poorly this gentleman has handled Orlando’s situation, specifically going back to last season, when he employed the strategy of waiting teams out and completely losing all leverage.
Comment by Coby DuBose — April 29, 2010 @ 12:39 am
I fail to see where players are “greedy” for maximizing their own personal value in light of the larger chain of big business baseball. They possess a skill that the public pays handsomely to see. They are no more greedy than you would be for taking the best deal on the table at the restaurant where you wait tables, or whatever it is that you do.
Comment by Coby DuBose — April 29, 2010 @ 12:42 am
This would seem to be the big variable that simply cannot be accounted for. The marginal value of each additionally dollar beyond “Amount X” is different for each player.
The first $17mm is CERTAINLY more important than each $17mm made beyond that.
Seventeen million dollars is enough to secure an entire bloodline through the end of the world, if protected and invested correctly. Not taking that money, and waiting instead of a contract that might pay $40-$50mm over the free agent years is a risk, as the player could be left holding an empty bag for a number of reasons. One debilitating injury could do it, or the player could just become ineffective (less likely).
What’s more important to a player? The first million? Or the 200th million? I believe that one is pretty easy to answer. And it’s there that we get the deals that are good for both sides. The value systems must be taken into account, as players eliminate all risk by taking the smaller amount of money, while teams assume some of the risk by shelling out guaranteed money for a still unproven commodity.
Comment by Coby DuBose — April 29, 2010 @ 12:47 am
Actually, greed plays a large part of it. When you’re offered a $160 million contract for 8 years vs a $119 million 7 year contract what’s really the difference? What can you possibly do with $41 dollars? that’s all going to be taken out in taxes any way and is more than a good chunk of your fan base will be able to earn in that span combined.
Then this player would later lament over the media saturation he received and even spoke out about returning to the club that he shunned for $41 million. Who was it? Why Manny Ramirez of course!
Players making that much money is absolutely absurd. There’s getting what you deserve and what you’re worth, then there’s what Boras will get you. Greed sent Manny to Boston and it caused him to feel miserable because he wasn’t used to the kind of attention he would garner.
Basically, there’s no one playing for the love of the game any more. Too many Jeff Kents out there any more. When you think about the fact that every ticket you buy, every commercial you watch during a game, every hot dog and beer you have at the stadium goes towards these players pay checks and they keep demanding more and more money because “so-and-so got that much and I’m better than him!” and so the prices of your tickets go up, that hot dog gets more expensive a freakin’ hat you could buy for $10 at Walmart now goes for $50 at the stadium for what? To pay these guys?
The excuse of “well so-and-so got a bajalion dollars and I’m better than him” is no better than a kid whining to his parents at the grocery store because the kid in front him got a candy bar, or because Timmy got a new bike and it’s not fair that he doesn’t have one.
Then when you take jobs that are far more productive to every day life in this country and are far more dangerous like coal mining, oil rig work, or like what I do, which is work on F-16 avionic systems and the pay that those people receive for their labor and it’s dumb. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been injured or covered in carcinogenic or corrosive chemicals for less than $30,000 a year. These guys PLAY A GAME for a living, if playing the game isn’t enough then there is something wrong with them.
It all boils down to greed. If you love something you don’t care how much you make, and why play a game that you don’t love unless you’re in it for the money? If I had Manny’s talent to hit, I doubt I would have asked for that much money. Why? Because I love baseball, all aspects of it, and if I was that good there would be no reason to hate doing it at all. I would be grateful for the chance to play and realize that things like team loyalty, being that legendary franchise player might not be the most monetarily rewarding of ways to go, but it’s what keeps you remembered. What if Ty Cobb, Lou Gerhig, or Mickey Mantle had just run off to the highest bidder without a care of who they played for? Would they be remembered as fondly? I doubt it.
Was he really waiting people out last off-season (08 not the most recent one)? Was anyone really interested in him? From what I remember about the off-season was that there was virtually no market for him. And I don’t know if it’s true but I know that there were a lot of reports that Hudson wanted to go to the Mets and was waiting for them, and they wanted him, but couldn’t offer him unless they moved Castillo, which is obviously virtually impossible. So it’s possible he was waiting by choice.
Also Renteria and Furcal both play short stop, and in Renteria’s case he was offered by a lunatic, I’m not sure many other teams were going to sign him to that contract, and Furcal by that lunatics former student. So I don’t really think it’s fair to compare what they got to what Hudson got cause I’m not sure it was an accurate picture of the market.
Also I think part of the problem with grading the agents is the wide spectrum of gms. I mean is Boras duping Minaya into bidding against himself for Oliver Perez really that impressive? And for poor Orlando Hudson’s agent if his player had just been an FA a year earlier he probably could have gotten 3/36 for Hudson from Omar. I imagine the fact that probably the bottom 5 or so gms in the league are in charge of some of the biggest market/most valuable teams would really skew the grading. Try as they might Minaya, Sabean, Wade and etc can only overpay so many players a year.
It’s difficult to evaluate “bad” agents, as it’s hard to say how much is the agent and how much is the wishes of the player. Sometimes players will take “team friendly” contracts bc they are happy in their current situation. (Tim Wakefield is the classic example). It’s hard to figure out how non-$$$ issues way in, which makes it hard to evaluate BAD agents. There have been a few cases recently of agents badly mis-judging the market the last few years though. Boras was guilty of this in a number of cases.
Negotiating with Brian Cashman is pretty much a good way to get your player a big contract, but…since it doesn’t really impair the teams ability to do anything else, he isn’t really a bad GM. Being the top FA a position the Yankee’s need is pretty much the best way to make money in MLB.
Chris I really doubt if you were offered a multi million dollar job you would turn it down. Particularly if you enjoyed the work. Would you be greedy? I do not think so.
Anyway what you have to understand is these salaries are not really about money, but status. As warren Buffet once said “Money is simply a way to keep score.”
I am a professor of behavioral finance and I can tell you that noone really cares about money in a pure money sense beyond basic needs. What everyone cares about is rather where they stand relative to the people they know in terms of status. The richest man in a poor neighborhood has been shown to be happier than the poorest man in the rich mans neighborhood.
The problem with atheletes is they compare themseleves to other entertainers not common people. If Jessica Simpson or Brittney Spears can make 100s of millions for singing other peoples songs then atheletes want similar money for doing what they see as harder job. They live in the same neighborhood.
Personally I do not begrudge them their money. They make it because what they do is popular, and nothing in our society pays you more than being popular (not even Goldman Sachs).
Compared to how much money baseball brings in, I can’t really fault players for getting as much as they can. Do I like the high salaries? No, but it’s more of a “it’s outrageous teachers and fireman get paid so little” thing. The money isn’t going away, so it either stays with the team or is spent on the players.
Perhaps that’s something that I just don’t get then. Personally, if I’m doing something that I absolutely love and there’s more to it then money for the competition (baseball stats etc) then the money is the last thing I want. I can honestly say that even though I’m living just above the poverty line right now too.
Part of the problem, I think, is that such mistakes are not really widely publicized and it would take individual contributions, like the one above regarding Hudson, for you to compile a good list of them. I recall that there were others like that, where the team offered a big contract but the player turned it down and ended up getting less.
However, there are nuances that need to be accounted for. Nomar is one who comes to mind, I think he turned down a huge $10M+ multi-year contract, but ended up with a fraction of that because of his injuries. But his decision made sense assuming that he would be healthy going forward. Could he have foreseen that he would be injured?
That issue often happens on management side, like the Giants signing of Durham, great deal going in, looks bad after the fact, but his history up to then showed no history of DL at all. But that happens to players too. Mistake in hid-sight, but sometimes there are acts of God that can’t be accounted for.
One I would contribute to agent mal-practice is the case of Rich Aurilia, a much beloved Giants player. He was entering his free agency and, for some reason, his agent thought that 4 years at $10M per was reasonable (or something crazy like that). The Giants rightly said “Thanks but no thanks” and Aurilia went into free agency with high hopes, but ended up not only with no multi-year deal, he ended up signing a relatively cheap (compared with what he was asking) one year deal with the Mariners, and I don’t think he was even a starter, or at least was not paid like one.
If their opening asking price was more reasonable, the Giants might have continued the conversation and he probably could have gotten 2-3 years (option year) for a better amount of money, not the one year, $3M deal that he got from the Mariners.
Agreed. That’s why I made the distinction between fans and analysts in the last paragraph. It would be interesting to see if there are significant differences between agents/agencies with regard to what sort of deals their players tend to sign.
My view is that if you’re going to measure agent success in terms of dollars, then even the “best” agents are people who are doing nothing positive for the game. I don’t mean that as a criticism — it’s not their job to do something positive for the game — but I just don’t see any point to glamorizing or even analyzing it. Unlike the main body of sabermetric pursuits, it doesn’t improve our understanding of the game, and it doesn’t improve the game itself.
Also notable, it seems to me that Ron Shapiro got a lot of praise for the Mauer deal, because of his perceived dual success in getting an enormous payday for his client while allowing his client to stay with his preferred club. Even in that case, though, it’s debatable whether Shapiro was making a positive contribution to the game. Plenty of folks think the Twins would be better off long-term without that deal, in contrast to the oceans of good vibes presently generated.
The one exception I can think of is that a bad agent is hurting the game, overall, when he negotiates an especially bad deal for his client. I’m thinking specifically of that Wakefield deal which was basically a voluntary reserve clause. Other than that, though, I just don’t see the relevance.
Boras may not be a bad guy, but his main significance to my favorite club is that Shin-Soo Choo will be going to an arbitration hearing every single year, probably losing every single year, and driving up the Indians payroll anyway.
It’s not that I think they’re an anomaly, it’s more that I think some of the worst gms at this point are in charge of some of the top revenue teams. So it’s a lot easier for them to make massive awful overpays (and still keep their jobs so they can continue to do). I think there’s a lot of medicore gms, but I also think there’s a pretty obvious drop off between the medicore and the clear worst. And most who would be included in the clear worst, Sabean, Minaya Wade etc also happen to have some of the biggest bank rolls.
I think Evan Longoria’s crazy for agreeing to that deal, but still, he can now go about the next few years of his life knowing that if he breaks his arm in half tomorrow, he’s still got millions of dollars coming his way. For a guy who was six years away from free agency (and three years away from even being able to ask for something above the minimum), there is some risk in going year to year. Not enough to outweigh the potential he had for a much bigger reward, in my opinion, but hey, my opinion doesn’t matter to Evan Longoria.
Still, you’d think they could have gotten a deal done that didn’t give the team options on his first few free agent years.
Valid points, Jay, but I think there’s a difference between “glamorizing” and “analyzing” agents. On a very simple level, I’m just curious to see if there are some agents who are somewhat more likely to get their players team-friendly deals or not.
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