Introducing The Scott Boras-O-Meter

Super agent Scott Boras is known to boast about his clients’ market value, particularly as each player nears or enters free agency. Oh, Boras doesn’t come right out and give a number. Sometimes he gives a range. Sometimes he talks on background and allows a reporter to claim “Sources say Boras is looking for 5 years/$100 million for Johnny So-in-So.”

This week, Boras tried to set a floor for Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who will be a free agent this winter. Jon Heyman had suggested in August — based on discussions with “baseball executives” — that Choo’s new contract could be in the $90 million to $100 million range. On Wednesday Heyman followed up, noting the considerable backlash against such a high number for Choo. And there was backlash from Boras, too. He believes $90 million to $100 million is too low for Choo.

“As a custom of the industry, prognostications by executives this time of year are dramatically divergent from the real market,” Boras said in a phone interview. “I don’t think anyone correctly predicted what Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford got.”

The interesting question is what Boras predicted Werth and his other clients would get. How close were Boras’ pre-contract comments with the deals he eventually negotiated for his clients?  Does he undersell? Oversell? Something in-between?

We’ve taken a look by going back through media reports leading up to and during the free agency period of Boras’ biggest clients over the last 10 years. Jon Heyman reportedly has a close relationship with Boras, and it would have been easy to simply look at what Heyman wrote about these players as Boras was negotiating the deals. But we dug deeper and tried to turn up Boras statements or comments attributed to Boras. Some came from Heyman, but not all.

The result is the Scott Boras-O-Meter. We can now compare the “Boras Prediction” to the contract that was signed. The “Boras Prediction” is the highest value deal floated for each of these players that could be traced back to the agent. Each prediction links to a specific media report, but for many players, there were several such reports.

Player Free Agent Winter Boras Prediction Contract
Carlos Beltran 2004-2005 10 yrs/$200 million  7 yrs/$119 million (Mets)
Adrian Beltre 2010-2011 5 yrs/$85 million 6 yrs/$96 million (Rangers)
Michael Bourn 2012-2013 $100-plus million 4 yrs/$48 million (Indians)
Prince Fielder 2011-2012  8 yrs/$200 million 9 yrs/$214 million (Tigers)
Matt Holliday 2009-2010 Compared to Teixeira, who signed for 8 yrs/$180 million  7 yrs/$120 million (Cardinals)
Edwin Jackson 2012-2013 $15 million – $17 million per year 4 yrs/$52 million (Cubs)
Andruw Jones 2007-2008  5 yrs/$100 million 2 yrs/$36.2 million (Dodgers)
Derek Lowe 2008-2009 5 yrs/$90 million 4 yrs/$60 million (Braves)
Daisuke Matsuzaka 2006-2007 5-6 yrs/$100 million 6 yrs/$52 million (Red Sox) (plus $51 million posting fee)
Magglio Ordonez 2004-2005 7 yrs  5 yrs/$85 million (Tigers)
Manny Ramirez 2008-2009 Initially rejected 2 yr/$45 million offer; Boras expected more than a 2-yr deal  2 yrs/$45 million (Dodgers)
Mark Teixeira 2008-2009 10 yrsTeixeira rejected offers of $160 million 8 yrs/$180 million (Yankees)
Jayson Werth 2010-2011  7 yrs/$120 million 7 yrs/$126 million (Nationals)
Barry Zito 2006-2007 7 yrs 7 yrs/$126 million (Giants)

Boras was off the mark with Carlos Beltran, Andruw Jones, Derek Lowe, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Manny Ramirez, and way off the mark with Michael Bourn, who’s value plummeted last winter as a result of the Braves’ qualifying offer. But the others came close, if not in years, then in total value. It’s a good bet that the Reds will make Shin-Soo Choo a qualifying offer like the Braves did with Bourn. The question is whether Boras has figured out a way around the roadblocks he faced last winter.

Take the time to read the Barry Zito link: it’s an article in USA Today from November, 2006. Boras boasts that Zito is “destined to be the finest left-handed starter since Steve Carlton by the time he’s 35.” And on Alex Rodriguez he said: “People laughed when we pointed out that Alex would hit 800 home runs in his career . . . The truth is that we underestimated.”

But there are noticeable wins here too. As Boras noted, no one saw Werth getting $126 million, and $200 million for Fielder seemed unfathomable as well. He doesn’t always end up talking a team into matching his public boasts, but he gets there more often than you might think. So, $100 million for Shin-Soo Choo might sound crazy, but we shouldn’t just immediately dismiss it as an agent hyping up his player. Boras floats these numbers for a reason, and he’s very good at his job.



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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and NewYorker.com. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


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