By John Manuel
September 26, 2001
In the wake of losing a client who, on his advice, had turned down almost $4 million, agent Tommy Tanzer was able to put the Matt Harrington saga inter perspective.
“The most important thing is for him to sign and get on with his baseball career,” Tanzer said.
Tanzer no longer will handle Harrington’s negotiations, though. The holdout righthander has changed agents, dropping Tanzer in favor of Scott Boras. Harrington and Tanzer had been negotiating with the Padres, who drafted him in the second round this year with the 58th overall selection, after they declined to sign with the Rockies, who made him the seventh overall pick in the 2000 draft.
The Harrington camp was scheduled to resume talks with the Padres in October. Instead, Harrington’s status will be discussed in a meeting between Boras and Padres general manager Kevin Towers in early October, which was already scheduled to negotiate the signing of third-round pick Taggert Bozied.
“I can tell you Kevin Towers has a very good relationship with Scott Boras, and they have been able to work together in the past,” said Padres scouting director Bill Gayton, noting Boras represents such Padres prospects as Xavier Nady, Jake Peavy and Dennis Tankersley. “I think there will be a cooling off period where they’ll be able to gather their information and allow some time to pass before negotiations really start again.”
Harrington’s family called Boras’ office in Southern California, and the 19-year-old worked out and threw for Boras before making the change. It’s not the first time Boras has been involved with a protracted draft holdout, but it’s a unique situation, even for him.
“In this case, the player lost his (college) eligibility, and being that young, his talent hadn’t reached its optimum point,” Boras said. “With the right conditioning and workout schedule, we think he can get back to his high school form.
“If he’s throwing at that level, he will be able to reacquire the value that once was portrayed for him.”
Negotiations between Tanzer and the Rockies quickly deteriorated after Harrington was drafted in 2000. Harrington and Tanzer were asking for a $4.95 million bonus and turned down a $4 million bonus in the process. A series of personal attacks soured the proceedings, sending Harrington to the Northern League and into the 2001 draft.
He reported to St. Paul but pitched below expectations. The long layoff affected his stuff, sending his mid-90s fastball into the mid-80s. Boras says his reports on Harrington indicate he occasionally was throwing 89-91 and touched 94 mph. He went 0-2, 9.47 with 18 walks and 17 strikeouts in 19 innings.
Tanzer said he will pursue a $5 million insurance claim taken out on Harrington, as well as other legal issues stemming from his representation.
“I’m not frustrated at all; it’s more a sense of relief,” Tanzer said. “We had a difference of opinion on how to handle things this time around with the Padres. I have tremendous respect for the family and the young man, and they’ve been put through an awful lot. I don’t know of anybody who has gone through something like this.”
Performance and holdouts haven’t been barriers for Boras clients in the past. Harrington and Stanford outfielder Joe Borchard, now with the White Sox organization, were considered the top talents going into the 2000 draft, and Boras says it’s imperative for the Padres to see that Harrington, not the St. Paul edition.
“Putting a high school player in the Northern League was not something that was conducive to Matt’s success,” said Boras, who has had clients such as Bozied, Bobby Hill and J.D. Drew play well in independent leagues during holdouts. “That’s a veteran league.
“His talent level wasn’t ready for that league as a high schooler, but we’re not talking about money with Matt, we’re talking about talent. And he was easily one of the top five high school pitchers I’ve seen, and this was my 23rd draft.”