Jan
29

The 72-hour countdown: Can Peter Greenberg eclipse Boras’ Zito deal?

I found an interesting ESPN.com piece on the Manhattan-based Peter Greenberg (rated by Forbes as the “best” agent in baseball), agent for the recently traded Johan Santana. Greenberg’s foray into the industry (he founded Peter E. Greenberg & Associates) occurred in the early 90’s after first working as a lawyer, and was founded upon a desire to help out Spanish-speaking players. “Many come here when they’re 16 years old. They don’t know the language or the culture, and it’s the first time they leave their home and their country. They’re basically lost,” Greenberg said. Despite having no background or ties to the game, Greenberg was fluent in Spanish (his mother was a native of Spain, so Greenberg learned the language during childhood summer trips to Barcelona).

You could call Greenberg’s decision great timing. As of the time of the piece (before the start of the ’06 season), more than 200 major-leaguers, or roughly 27 percent of players on Opening Day rosters, came from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and other Latin American locales (almost double the 14% figure of 1991). And now, Greenberg’s agency, Scott Boras’ firm, SFX and Alan Nero’s CSMG are among the agencies with the most extensive Latin American operations.

Johan

Greenberg’s latest challenge? Eclipse Boras’ historic, 7-year, $126 million (with an $18 million option for 2014 that could increase the contract’s total value to $144 million) Barry Zito contract with the Giants, which in hindsight might have been just a tad steep of a price to pay in terms of ROI. While the New York Mets have tentatively agreed to a trade for Santana, the left-handed, two-time Cy Young Award winner, by giving up four prospects (but not Fernando Martinez!), the deal is predicated upon Santana (who is eligible for free-agency after this season, in which he is owed $13.25 million) waiving his no-trade clause. This will require the Mets to negotiate an extension with Santana of at least six to seven years and $20 million annually, according to some. Santana told the Minnesota Twins long ago that he’d like a contract similar to Zito’s. But “similar” may not cut it in Greenberg’s (or the union’s) eyes. That said, Minnesota has given the Mets a 72-hour window to complete the trade.

With Zito’s contract in mind, interested parties will (rightfully) determine that anything less than Zito’s deal would be uncivilized. Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheehan, for example, persuasively argues that a 7-year, $161 million deal, would only be a 15% increase on Zito’s numbers, and after all, “Santana is more than 15 percent better than Barry Zito by any measure.” Most importantly, Sheehan argues, a $23 million/year deal would be in-line with Santana’s marginal value based upon his “Marginal Value Above Replacement Player” number, which is articulated upon in the piece and is based on the actual behavior of recent free agent markets, and accounts for non-linearity in the market price of baseball talent: “If Santana’s four-year projection is stagnant and we account for inflation, he’d be worth about $90 million from 2008-11, or $22.5 million per season, which is pretty close to the $23 million I mentioned above. That kind of deal isn’t overpaying: it’s market value.”

  • jason

    The answer? Yes he can.

    The New York Times reports that Santana’s deal is worth $150.75 million, topping the previous pitchers mark set when Barry Zito received a $126 million, seven-year deal from the San Francisco Giants last year. The deal will pay Santana $137.5 million over six years in addition to the $13.25 million he is due in his contract’s final year in 2008.

    Kudos to Peter Greenberg for a job well done, albeit somewhat at the 11th hour. Finally, baseball’s highest paid pitcher is deserving of the title.

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