Contract Negotiation MLB Players MLB Teams Sports Agents

Roll Out The Hold Outs

The MLB First-Year Player Draft is right around the corner, and you can expect to see some drafted players holding out for better offers.

The media, MLB organizations, and the general public tend to agree on one thing: they hate it when players holdout. They also like to blame sports agents for ruining sports when their clients refuse to sign for an amount of money that a majority of people would take in a heartbeat. At least two entities in baseball actually embrace the tactic. One is a sports agent (which shouldn’t be surprising) named Scott Boras. The other is an independent league Fort Worth Cats, who have been the benefactors of more than one Scott Boras holdout in the past [Detour on the Scott Boras Expressway].

So is it worth it to holdout a client that gets picked in the MLB draft? If the player is legitimately getting an amount of money under what he deserves, I would say that at the present time, it is a pretty good option. NFL players get a lot of media attention and bad press when they holdout, but baseball players are not under the same microscope. The MLB draft isn’t televised (this year will mark the first time in history), draft picks do not go right into the majors, and the general public has no idea that J.D. Drew (or any other successful baseball player) ever denied his first contract offer. In addition, the independent league teams understand that they are lucky to have the opportunity to display bigger names on their roster, and do not overuse such players (lessening the likelihood of injury).

The New York Times article documents the story behind Max Scherzer, who besides having 2 different eye colors, gained an extra $4 million by not signing his initial offer, and instead, playing for the Fort Worth Cats for a year. If the New York Times had not reported on this one story (there are tons more in the history of baseball), and if I would not have repeated it here, you would have never known that Scherzer denied his first contract offer if/when he becomes a major league pitcher. Also, don’t forget about Luke Hochevar, who also benefitted from holding out, and happens to be a Scott Boras client.

The classic reason for sending your client to an independent league team was to have him further develop his tools and become more wanted by the MLB organizations. Scott Boras and others have changed that theory, sending players who are already highly coveted by professional organizations to these leagues as a negotiation tactic. The dynamics of these leagues become quite interesting. It may be true that those who can prove themselves against the Scott Boras holdouts will be destined for future success in the MLB. Scouts attend independent league games more often, giving the leagues more legitimacy.

Baseball holdouts don’t seem so bad after all…unless you are on the wrong side of one (sorry owners).

-Darren Heitner

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

10 replies on “Roll Out The Hold Outs”

Nice piece and good luck to you guys in the draft, by the way.

The Drew case is interesting. I remember him playing here in MN for the St. Paul Saints (formerly of the of the independent Northern League; now a part of the American Association) after the snafu with the Phillies, who it should be noted drafted Drew despite the fact that Boras repeatedly warned them not to if they weren’t prepared to meet a certain benchmark figure. The Phillies drafted him nevertheless and Drew went to St. Paul for a year. He was drafted the next year by St. Louis.

The lesson? Boras doesn’t bluff…

Nice article, Boras certainly knows what he is doing. It is important to point out though the problem with holding out and waiting until next year. Boras has increased the value of many of his clients through having them hold out but most of his clients are drafted in the first few rounds where they are already very valuable. I know of two guys personally who were drafted in the middle rounds (16th and 23rd) and decided not to sign. They both had average years the following year and watched their stock decline. I’m not saying that holding out is a bad method but obviously the advisor to each player needs to do his homework before telling his player not to take the deal. Good stuff guys.

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Max Scherzer, who recently signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, is the last of his kind — MLB Draft holdout.

More specifically, this paragraph —

“But baseball has moved recently to put the kibosh on this draft dynamic, which is most publicly employed by Boras. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which was announced here in St. Louis during the World Series, calls for an Aug. 15 deadline for players to sign. (Even the threat of losing that high draft pick has been diminished by the new CBA, which promises a team a nearly identical pick in compensation for an unsigned draftee.) Coming just before the school year starts and late in the independent league season it is expected to lessen the leverage a drafted player has. Teams either sign the player by that deadline or not. No more dawdling. No more lengthy delays. No more signing with independent clubs to force the issue.

No more Scherzers.”

There’s more to it (obviously), but just wanted to give you more information.


On a side-note, totally unrelated to this post, you may notice that the site does not look as it normally does. I have put up a basic theme in the meantime, but expect a brand new theme to be unveiled shortly. The old one went completely haywire on me. Sorry for the temporary mess!

Boras is by far the most hated agent across all sports. That said I have respect for the man and what he does, he is just a negotiating machine, who gets the most money out of these organizations. Clients love him and he rarely makes mistakes.

Agents come up with new and newer ways to gain leverage in negotiations but in the NHL, there’s a new twist…the player firing agent to become his own agent. It doesn’t happen so often…but just enough to put a bit of fear in agents and GM’s alike. Will it become a trend? Maybe not…but it would be fun to see.

Does Hochevar ending up with the bottom-dwelling Royals instead of the playoff-contending Dodgers really count as benefitting though?

As a stud pitcher, I would probably want to be with the Royals. There is more of a chance to make it to the Majors and have a presence with an organization that does not have as much top-heavy talent. It also may be easier to transition into stardom in Kansas City over L.A.

I agree with Darren, if you are a great pitcher and get to start off in KC where you will automatically be considered the face of the franchise and move up quickly through the minors based partly on your performance and partly on the franchise’s need for you to pitch at the highest level. On top of that like Darren mentioned you are in a much smaller market where the spotlight isn’t on you all the time and let’s not forget you play for the Royals so even if you pitch .500 baseball for the year you look better because of the team that surrounds you.

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