Scott Boras Timeline
By Alan Schwarz
Boras, who signed as a non-drafted free agent, played four seasons in the Cardinals system, topping out at Double-A.
One of the first agents to focus on top amateur players to build his startup agency, Boras represents the top two picks in the June 1983 draft, Tim Belcher (Twins) and Kurt Stillwell (Reds). Minnesota, as well as the rest of baseball, gets an early taste of what was to come when Belcher declines a $120,500 bonus offer and returns to college.
In retrospect these are lean years for Boras, as he represents the likes of Jeff Bumgarner, Patrick Lennon and Ryan Bowen. He negotiates a $210,000 bonus for No. 4 overall pick Kevin Brown in 1986, one of the highest up-front payments ever at the time.
The modern Boras era starts here. He represents the top three picks in the draft (Andy Benes, Mark Lewis and Steve Avery) as well as Jim Abbott at No. 8. Benes receives a $235,000 bonus from the Padres to set a new all-time standard (but still only $30,000 more than the pre-draft record bonus of $205,000 Rick Reichert got on the open market in 1964). Boras also advised Florida high school phenom Alex Fernandez as he turns down the Brewers as their first-rounder and instead enrolls at the University of Miami.
The fallout from 1988 is felt immediately: First-round bonuses increase 32 percent across the board. Meanwhile the No. 1 overall pick by the Orioles, Boras client Ben McDonald (the Mark Prior überprospect of his era), strong-arms his way to the first multiyear major league contract ever afforded an amateur player not named Bo Jackson. The $800,000 deal includes a $350,000 signing bonus. And once again, a top high school player represented by Boras--this time catcher Charles Johnson, picked in the first round by the Expos--instead goes to college, again to Miami.
Fernandez quickly signs as the No. 4 overall pick by the White Sox, but the big news comes in July, when Boras client Todd Van Poppel, a high school phenom to that point considered unsignable and committed to the University of Texas, switches gears and signs with the reigning World Series champion Athletics as the No. 14 overall pick. Van Poppel gets a $1.2 million contract and $500,000 bonus, stunning officials baseball-wide.
In the first summer of now-legendary Boras holdouts, four clients, all picked in the top eight of the first round, barely negotiate into late August. Pitchers Kenny Henderson (No. 5, Brewers) and John Burke (No. 6, Astros) spurn their clubs and go to college. But only hours before attending junior college, Brien Taylor, the No. 1 overall pick by the Yankees, signs perhaps the most famous draft contract ever: a straight $1.55 million bonus deal with the Yankees. “If other clubs use these deals as a barometer,” one general manager said of Boras’ megadeals, “we’ll all go out of business.”
Burke and Johnson re-enter the draft as top-15 caliber talents, but most teams avoid them as they fall to the expansion Rockies and Marlins, respectively. (Boras countered by claiming he maneuvered his clients to their hometown teams.) For Johnson, Boras demands a Taylor-like $1.55 million deal, but the Marlins appear to win this one, getting the catcher for $575,000 in November.
Clubs hang tough with Boras again in 1993. He demands $2.5 million from the Mariners for No. 1 overall pick Alex Rodriguez, and $2 million from the Dodgers for No. 2 pick Darren Dreifort, but eventually accepts last-minute deals worth $1.3 million each. (The Rodriguez talks became particularly nasty, and after the deal was done Boras briefly sought to void the contract.) With less fanfare--temporarily--Jason Varitek doesn’t sign with the Twins at No. 21 and returned to Georgia Tech.
Varitek ends his senior year by getting selected No. 14 overall by the Mariners but again didn’t sign, instead inking a deal with the independent St. Paul Saints in hopes of avoiding the draft in 1995. That maneuver fails, and Varitek accepts a $650,000 deal early the following year. Meanwhile, all across baseball, first-round bonuses move up yet again to an average of $790,000, the fifth straight year of at least 27 percent growth.
Boras represents what some scouts regard at the time as the best available high school hitter (Jaime Jones) and pitcher (Chad Hutchinson) in the draft. Jones flames out in the minors, while Hutchinson, a top quarterback prospect as well, enrolls at Stanford rather than accept a $1.5 million offer from the Braves.
Catalyzing unprecedented chaos, Boras notices that the White Sox failed to tender a proper contract within 15 days to first-round pick Bobby Seay, leading him--and three other top-12 picks, one of them fellow Boras client and prep pitching phenom Matt White--to gain free agency. Boras gets Seay a $3 million deal with the Devil Rays, and after agent Jeff Moorad blows people’s minds with a $10 million Diamondbacks contract for Travis Lee, Boras one-ups him by getting the Devil Rays to shell out $10.2 million for White (who has never thrown a major league pitch). The frenzy indicates how much top amateur players could be worth on an open market.
With that evidence, and while claiming teams had indicated before the draft they would meet this demand, Boras attempts to get J.D. Drew, the No. 2 overall pick by the Phillies, a White-like deal of $10 million. The negotiations reach a new level of contentiousness when Drew files a grievance saying the proper tender letter was FedExed to the wrong address. After Drew signed with the St. Paul Saints, he files another unsuccessful grievance claiming that should earn him free agency the following June. (Drew went back into the draft in 1998.) Perhaps more significantly, even though Boras client Rick Ankiel--considered the draft’s top high school pitcher--falls to the Cardinals at No. 72 because of teams’ reluctance to deal with Boras’ demands, he still gets the money he wanted, signing a $2.5 bonus deal with St. Louis that sets a record for a player who signed as a draftee.
Back in the draft, Drew goes to the Cardinals at No. 5 and signs relatively quickly for an $8.5 million major league contract with a $3 million bonus. Finding the Cardinals accommodating, Boras also gets $3.4 million for Hutchinson at No. 42 to get him to leave Stanford. He finds matters more difficult with Kansas City and their No. 4 overall pick, righthander Jeff Austin, but agrees to terms the following February for a Royals-record $2.7 million bonus.
Boras had no first-round picks in 1999, the first time since 1985 he didn’t have a player in the top 10 selections. He still makes news, though, by getting top dollar for picks who slid to later rounds. Florida righthander Matt McClendon gets $950,000 from the Braves as a fifth-round pick, and he gets high bonuses for two supplemental first-rounders, Casey Daigle ($1.3 million from Arizona) and Nick Stocks ($1.41 million from St. Louis). Second-rounder Bobby Hill turns down the White Sox and plays indy ball instead.
This summer saw a wide range of Boras stories. He got second-round slugger Xavier Nady a major league contract and $2.65 million bonus from the Padres. When high school shortstop David Espinosa and college catcher Dane Sardinha--considered top-five talents--fall and are taken by the cash-strapped Reds in the first and second rounds, respectively, he negotiates stunning major league contracts for each worth $5 million combined, with no bonuses. And in the most distinctive move of all, he wins free agency for top prep junior Landon Powell by having him complete his GED diploma before the draft, in which he went overlooked and unselected by every club. Alas, Powell returns to high school anyway when no club signs him that summer. He no longer was represented by Boras when he became Oakland’s first-round pick in 2004.
In one of his less notable drafts, Boras gets Georgia Tech slugger Mark Teixeira a $9.5 million, four-year deal as the fifth overall pick. (The contract came from the Rangers, with whom Boras had recently enjoyed extraordinarily profitable deals for Alex Rodriguez and Chan Ho Park.) Later, he gets Patrick Boyd, an underachieving outfielder from Clemson, $600,000 in the seventh round--from Texas once again.
Boras returns to prominence this time around. Rutgers righthander Bobby Brownlie, once considered a No. 1 overall candidate, slips to the Cubs at No. 21. (He signed the following March for $2.5 million, the same bonus as the Nos. 3 and 5 picks.) No. 22 Jeremy Guthrie gets $3 million from the Indians, the third-highest bonus in the draft. Several other players, most notably prep righthanders Mark McCormick, Jason Neighborgall and Mike Pelfery, fall far enough that their bonus demands aren’t met and opted for college.
Rice slugger Vince Sinisi gets $2.07 million in the second round, more than any player drafted after No. 12, but once again Boras holdouts take center stage. Baylor righty Stephen White, despite having completed his senior season, takes until the following April to sign with the Yankees as their fourth-rounder--while prep stars Jason Donald and Ian Kennedy don’t sign at all, preferring to enroll at Arizona and Southern California. Both are expected to be top prospects next June.
Boras makes headlines again in representing the consensus best pitcher (Long Beach State’s Jered Weaver) and position player (Florida State’s Stephen Drew) in what remain ongoing sagas. Weaver falls to No. 12 and the Angels, who have balked at giving him anywhere near the Mark Prior-like $10.5 million he has sought. Drew, who goes No. 15 overall to Arizona, has used Teixeira’s $9.5 million deal as a benchmark, also to no avail. They could very well enter the upcoming 2005 draft and start all over again.