Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Williams Closes Door on Boras Clients

There’s been a lot of complaining about agent Scott Boras, and a lot of it coming from Sox fans. Kenny Williams’ announcement that he won’t be dealing with Boras, or any of his clients (including Magglio Ordonez), did nothing to assuage the anger loyal fans feel when Boras snatches up their team’s best player, only to price him out of the hometown team’s budget.

To be fair to Boras, it's an agent's job to get the most he can on behalf of the players he represents. He is simply the best at what he does.

Does that necessarily price mid-market teams out of the superstar market? Yes and no, I suppose.

A team with $75 million dollar payroll could afford a $15 million dollar player (Beltre/Ordonez money). They could even afford a $20 million dollar player (Manny Ramriez money) provided they've got enough low-cost, but quality players to surround that single high-paid player.

That's not the Sox, however, mostly because they already have a pretty balanced payroll distribution.

Nobody on the current roster makes more than $10 million. But they do have six players signed for between $5 million and $9 million. Those six players (Lee, Konerko, Thomas, Buehrle, Contreras and Garcia) combine to make $45.5 million in 2005.

After the cost of contract renewals, exercised options and arbitration awards, the Sox are already about at last year's budget of $65 million. And they still have holes to fill at catcher, in the rotation and bullpen, while still wanting to add an outfielder and an infielder.

So for a team with as much money already committed to next year, the Sox are priced out of the market.

There have been other middle market teams that have had payroll room to add a top-tier Boras client. Detroit signing Ivan Rodriguez last year comes to mind. And who thought Texas would land Alex Rodriguez? They were a mid-market team. And that might have worked if the franchise weren't also burdened with the contracts of Chan Ho Park, Rusty Grier and Jay Powell.

It just all demonstrates the risks of signing free agents, in general, to long-term contracts. Signing a superstar player is a big, big, big investment for a team, so GMs have to do their homework before doing it. They need to know if a player is healthy, coming off a career year, or if that player is likely to decline quickly.

GMs that don't do their homework end up with Chan Ho Park.

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