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's baseball writing has also been published by Sports on Earth. ESPN.com, SB Nation, The Score, Bay Area Sports Guy, The Classical and San Francisco Magazine. Wendy practiced law for 18 years before beginning her writing career. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


57 Responses to “Introducing The Scott Boras-O-Meter”

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  1. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Cano for #300 million, oh wait, that wasn’t even Boras. Very interesting article.

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    • Robbie G. says:

      I realize that it’s completely unoriginal to complain about ESPN’s blatant biases, and how they are more interested in covering a Yankees team, even a non-playoffs-bound Yankees team, than in players and teams that are actually playing really well and/or en route to the playoffs. I will say that I am rooting for Fangraphs to NOT publish an article about Robinson Cano’ free agency until after the postseason is over.

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      • Misfit says:

        So in order to combat a bias held by the largest sports news network, FanGraphs should embrace a bias of its own and ignore the consensus top free agent? There are enough writers at FanGraphs that seem to specialize in the money side of baseball that articles throughout the post season about the upcoming free agency period shouldn’t detract from the site’s post season coverage. FanGraphs shouldn’t be in the business of simply reacting to whatever the big media outlets are doing.

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      • Tommy says:

        I only know about this ‘bias’ because I only read about ESPN via comments like yours. So just stop.

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      • Phillie697 says:

        News networks report whatever the heck is going to make them the most money, and Yankees, by the virtue of being in NYC, makes a lot of money for a lot of people. The Royals can be winning 110 games right now, and it would still be less profitable to report about them than reporting about the Yankees. Be glad whichever team you root for is doing well (I’m assuming that’s why you’re complaining) and stop having a inferiority complex. ESPN treats NYC, where the Yankees play, like it’s the center of the universe because it IS the center of the universe, and I don’t even like NYC.

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  2. Kinanik says:

    The QO is weird because it’s like a tax that hits each club differently. It’s harsh on the #20 team, since they lose pick #11, but cheapest for the ten worst teams (since they don’t lose their first round pick). The question for Boras is: can he drum up interest for Choo among the clubs who have to pay the least to sign him?

    I think he’s pretty good on that front. It’s cheapest, of course, for the Reds (since they only give up the opportunity cost of a supplemental pick), but there are other teams who don’t have to give up high draft picks who seem interested. The Cubs seem like they’re in. He wouldn’t be a bad fit on the Mariners or Mets, if either of them decide to make a run. I mean, the Twins and Phillies have low replacement level outfielders, but I don’t see either of them making a run. Anyways, it seems like a friendly market for Choo; if the Reds weren’t interested and none of the bottom clubs wanted him, it would be another story (like last year).

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    • Misfit says:

      Which is hard to do, as most of those teams that won’t forfit a pick by signing Choo are less likely to shell out big bucks for a 31 year old, defensively challenged, outfielder whose primary skill is getting on base. Teams, other than the Angels, appear to be getting smarter when it comes to paying for over 30 free agents which makes me think Choo will be more Michael Bourn than Jason Werth in terms of compensation. He’ll do well for himself if he can top a 4 year deal that averages somewhere in the neighborhood of 16-18 million per year.

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      • GTinNYC says:

        “31 year old, defensively challenged outfielder whose primary skill is getting on base” is a needlessly pessimistic and dismissive view of Choo.

        Getting on base in not just “his primary skill”. It’s an elite skill. Choo has the 7th highest OBP in baseball amongst qualified hitters since 2010. Oh, and he averages 55-60 extra base hits a year. And sure, he’s not a CFer, but I don’t believe the defense is quite as bad as the metrics think. He’s a perfectly passable corner OFer. Shoot, if he was even an average CFer he’d be one of the best players in the game. He’s going to be in high demand this offseason and I can definitely see someone giving him $100 million.

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        • Misfit says:

          I am not denying he has value, but his skill set is not the kind many teams seem to value on the free agent market. He’ll be cast as a corner outfielder where teams still seem to emphasise power over other skills. While Choo has rebounded nicely this season in that regard, his two previous seasons featured ISOs of .131 and .159. Nick Swisher seems like a reasonable comp to me and he “only” received $56M last offseason. I just don’t see Choo breaking $100M.

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        • Nathaniel Dawson says:

          Swisher’s a good comp in that comparing the two leaves you with Choo being the clearly superior player, so you would expect him to get a lot more money. Choo’s been a much better offensive player over the last several season, is probably as good or better than Swisher defensively, and certainly adds more speed on the bases. Age probably isn’t much of a factor, but he is a year younger heading into free agency than Swisher.

          I can only guess how much Choo might get, but he’s almost certainly going to be seen by teams as more valuable than Swisher.

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        • coldseat says:

          I would bet against choo getting that much not for his baseball skills, but because owners tend to fork up crazy amounts for the big splash guys that help sell tickets/make a statement. On that score choo is much much more bourne than hamilton/werth.

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    • LaLoosh says:

      the Phils getting a protected pick could mean they’ll be active for either Choo or Pence or even Ellsbury I suppose. Getting pick protection is key.

      The big penalty in this system goes to the teams who just miss being in the bottom ten, like being at 11, 12 or 13 bc those teams are still bad. But the best teams who are picking at the bottom of the 1st round have the same penalty of losing their 1st rd pick but there’s normally a big talent differential between picking at the bottom of the 1st round and picking at 11 or 12. iow, it’s far easier to give up the 26th pick in the 1st round to sign a premium FA than to give up the 11th pick.

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  3. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Might I suggest: “Borascope”

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  4. Chris R says:

    Of course, it’s always possible that every club has someone checking the (implicit) fourth column too, which would be the actual value delivered by the Boras clients sold at these princely prices. I haven’t run looked up WAR on all of these guys, but it’s a pretty dismal record, with only Beltran, Beltre and Holliday arguably realizing their contract values. After the last few off-seasons featuring mega-waste spending on Werth, Fielder, Jackson and Bourn is there any other Charlie Brown out there to take another boot at the ole pigskin?

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      • Ed says:

        Pipe down Chris.

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        • Chris R says:

          No chance. I’m taking Boras down!

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        • NATS Fan says:

          Down what? The road to extreme riches! The man is a sales genius! Jerk maybe, I do not know for sure, but a sales genius. Much better at the Art of the Deal than well known author Trump. And thankfully he does not brand is products with is own name.

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        • jsolid says:

          “thankfully he does not brand his products with his own name.”

          If i had a nickel every time i read “a Scott Boras client” or “represented by Scott Boras”, i’d be as rich as, hmmm, let me see…

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    • Jake says:

      One could make the argument that Werth has been a decent value so far. He’s accumulated 7.4 WAR for $39M over the first three years of his contract. Using $5M/win he only comes up $2M short, which is pretty damn good considering how much time he missed due to injury last year. The problem is, of course, that he has to essentially duplicate the season he’s had this year for each of the next four seasons.

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    • NATS Fan says:

      Werth had a great year this season! Nearly won the batting title while providing good power and tons of onbase%. I would say he had Elite skill at getting on base this season. A slash line of .316/,395/.510 over 520 PA is a damn good year!

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  5. Scott J Marcus says:

    Do people think the Yankees would be in on Choo? They’re going to get some extra money from A-Rod’s penalty, and if they don’t want to pony up the years and dollars that Cano wants, Choo might make sense for them. And if the Yankees are in, then I believe Boras will get his quote and then some.

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    • LaLoosh says:

      definitely. Yanks will sign either Choo or McCann and maybe both if Cano goes to Det.

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    • Lakeside says:

      They are certaintly trying to :

      1. bring payroll down
      2. They have Soriano/Gardner/Ichrio and Wells
      3. rebuilding time.

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      • Scott J Marcus says:

        I won’t believe the Yankees are in rebuilding mode until I see it. If A-Rod gets 100 games, that gives them an extra $20 million or so to spend. And of the 4 outfielders you mentioned, only Gardner represents a really valuable player, at this point in their careers.

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  6. Do you think we’ll see a “Do you think the Yankees…” post in every article ever posted on the internet about baseball?

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  7. jon says:

    “Boras was off the mark with… Daisuke Matsuzaka…”

    Are you sure he wasn’t including the posting fee? Because with it, Boras’ prediction is suspiciously perfect.

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    • Eric R says:

      I’d call that coincidental. Why would he figure in the posting fee, the player doesn’t see any of that…

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      • Dane says:

        Knowing that the team considers the posting fee into the salary (even if it isn’t paid to the player), it would be ludicrous for Boras to NOT have been accounting for the posting fee when he stated what he expected Matsuzaka to receive in a contract.

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        • Kevin S. says:

          But if memory serves, Boras basically wanted the Red Sox to look at the posting fee as a separate cost. I believe he was seeking a nine-figure deal for Matsuzaka.

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        • Josh G says:

          The posting fee isn’t paid to the player and it doesn’t count in luxury tax math. Posting comes from “marketing and development.” I think its lucky/eerie coincidence that the Boras number and the posting + salary number are the same

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  8. CalipariFan506 says:

    For the teams picking 11-20 and missing the playoffs but in danger of losing a pick don’t you guys think it would be wise to just go all in on free agents one offseason and forfeit your top few rounds instead of just losing your first round pick on one player?

    Like if the Phillies are picking 12th they could sign Choo, McCann and like Ubaldo Jimenez and lose their top 3 rounds picks and the value of losing the 2nd and 3rd round pick wouldnt be as great as losing first round picks multiple seasons in a row.

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  9. sgardnerUSAT says:

    In the 2006 Zito article, my favorite part is this one:

    When asked to identify baseball’s next great franchise, the one that could dominate the next 10 years, Boras doesn’t hesitate.

    “The New York Mets will be a juggernaut,” Boras says. “They have so much money coming with their new TV deal, they could have the biggest payroll in baseball. They understand what it takes to win.”

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  10. NatsLady says:

    Is there any chance the CBA is opened up and the QO examined? You have to figure it’s not working as intended for the free agents.

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  11. Rick M says:

    Edwin Jackson is a client of The Legacy Agency. Scott Boras did not negotiate that 4-year, $52M contract with the Cubs.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/07/edwin-jackson-to-join-legacy-agency.html

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/01/cubs-to-sign-edwin-jackson.html

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  12. LaLoosh says:

    in any case, it looks like Boras will have a prosperous winter with Choo and Ellsbury.

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  13. pft says:

    In any sale the asking price is usually higher than the market price. The seller knows this, as does the buyer in most cases, so the price paid is usually lower than the seller wants but perhaps higher than the buyer wants to pay. However, often times the lower than asking sale price is actually the target price for the seller, and that may be the case with some of these deals. The higher asking price in these cases altered the markets perception of what the market price should be.

    Then there are cases where if as a seller you can get a bidding war going between 2 or more buyers, you can meet or exceed your asking price. Boras and other sellers can’t always control this, a lot depends on market conditions and the quality of the property, and luck. Thats what happened with Werth and Fielder, and Crawford. Werth and Crawford were a result of the Red Sox and another team interested in the same player. The Red Sox were interested in Werth and drove up the price on the Nats, and then overpaid for Crawford in desperation after failing to get Werth. Crawford was talking with the Angels and the Red Sox outbid them enough they never bothered to ask the Angels to counter.

    If the Yankees get back in the market, along with teams like the Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Twins, Red Sox, Orioles and Phillies. Some replacing lost free agents, others to turn the team around after disappointing seasons, then Boras could have a good year.

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  14. Noah says:

    I think the Mets should be looked at as the frontrunners for Choo at this point. Even though Alderson is saying they don’t want to get in a bidding war, that’s just a negotiating tactic. With this free agent market Choo is well worth nearly $100 Million, and the Mets have plenty of space to operate and then some, considering that their cores is basically entirely on minimum salary except for Wright.

    It’s going to be an interesting offseason. As a Mets fan, it’s been one that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and honestly it can’t come fast enough. I’m just praying they don’t trade Syndergaard.

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  15. Kevin says:

    I think he is worth $80 mil, so 100 would only be a substantial overpay; not a ludicrous one (*cough* Mark Teixera *cough*). Someone will probably show him the money. Let’s not forget that Boras is good at his job: he’s not paid to be an analyst or to manage teams, but to get his players big contracts!

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  16. Johnny says:

    I think Choo will get a 5 year, 85 million deal. He should be a 3 win player for the next 3-4 seasons. So if you factor in inflation it really isn’t that bad of an overpay.

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  17. Gyre says:

    “Does he undersell?”

    Ah Wendy, one of the best laughs of the day

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  18. TKDC says:

    I think it is a bit odd to talk about the QO with Bourn. I don’t think it really played a role at all. Guys who are going to get long deals for tons of money are barely affected by the QO. A draft pick isn’t worth that much, and wasn’t it a second rounder by then?

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    • FreeAgencyIsntFree says:

      Any love for the ‘Boratory? And/or calling for a Boratorium on clever names for the $cott Bora$ meter?

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    • 'Toine Washington says:

      I think it played a huge role. The Mets weren’t willing to give up the #11 pick to sign Bourn. The Indians 1st round pick was protected, they lost their 2nd round pick when they signed Swisher, so they gave up a competitive balance pick (#69 overall) when they signed Bourn.

      If the Mets wouldn’t lose that pick, they would’ve paid more and signed Bourn.

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  19. Ryan says:

    I understand that the Boras Meter tried to gauge the market from sources other than Jon Heyman, but I can’t help but think back to Manny signing with the Dodgers when Boras initially wanted 6 years, $150M: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/jon_heyman/10/15/heyman.manny/

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  20. HollywoodMcMoon says:

    I think the Hunter Pence contract just set a pretty high floor for Choo. Choo is probably looking at something like Adrian Beltre’s deal now if he is willing to take about the same annual value.

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  21. Nick says:

    “according to Rosenthal’s sources” is not a direct or even indirect statement from Scott Boras. It could be a team official trying to paint the player as being unreasonable. Fun little exercise but I take this with a Sandoval-sized grain of salt.

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