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The Pirates Got Boras’ed

While I was frantically trying to find a class to substitute the terrible Child Support Enforcement Law that I dropped yesterday, I received an IM from Brian Foley of  I had read headlines about Pedro Alvarez yesterday, but had not checked the full story yet.  He wanted a quote, so this is what I offered him:

Collective bargaining agreements are as worthless as the paper they are printed on if they are not adhered to by both negotiating parties. If Pedro Alvarez is given 45 minutes, then next year’s 2nd pick will try to get 90 minutes. Where does it end?

Before I expand on my two-sentences that were featured in Foley’s blog, lets get into some background behind the whole Alvarez situation.  Pedro Alvarez was selected #2 overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  A day before the signing deadline, Zak Kurtz, pointed out that Boras was looking for $7 million from the Pirates and that the club would probably not pay that kind of money.  The deadline came, and Pirates fans were surprised that the organization paid big money on some players, including Robbie Grossman in the sixth round ($1 million) and Pedro Alvarez, the #2 overall pick ($6 million).  But $6 million is a whole $1 million short of the $7 million demanded.  Did the deal work itself out legitimately?

Scott Boras says no and he has the MLBPA behind him.  The claim is that Alvarez refused to sign a deal with the Pirates until forty-five minutes after the signing deadline, at which time Alvarez signed for a $6 million bonus.  Additionally, rumor has it that Alvarez signed late because Boras was busy negotiating a deal for another client, Eric Hosmer, right before the deadline.  Alvarez is now on the restricted list.

A few things:

  • Is anyone surprised that Scott Boras is involved in a media-hyped baseball controversy?
  • Why would Boras and Alvarez sign a deal at all if they were going to be the party to go to the MLBPA to file a grievance against Major League Baseball?
  • If Boras knew that the Pirates were violating MLB rules by extending the deadline, was he not an accomplice to the act by being a party of the action?  If he had knowledge of the violation, did he have a duty to say something at the time of the breach?
  • If it is true that Boras was so busy negotiating Eric Hosmer’s deal that he could not focus on Pedro Alvarez getting signed on time, will this deter future first-rounders from going with Boras because they believe he already has his hands full with enough clients on his plate?

Now, on to the quote that I offered Foley for his piece.  I truly do believe that if CBAs (Collective Bargaining Agreements) are to be made in any industry, they must be followed by both parties to the agreement.  While I am currently enrolled in Labor Law, and will learn much more about CBAs in a later class session, I understand that they embody formal rules between a union and owners.  If either side breaches the agreement, there must be some sort of penalty.  In this case, I am not sold that the Pirates are entirely at fault.  Scott Boras is an MLBPA licensed agent, therefore, he represents the union in all of his actions.  Again, if he had knowledge at the time that he and the Pirates were negotiating beyond the deadline, then he and the union may be at fault as well.

In the end, I would hope to make this issue a clean wash and have all parties learn some valuable lessons.  It is great when agents/advisors do all that they can for their clients to gain an edge, as long as it is done within the confines of the rules.  This situation is way too shady.  If you intentionally break the deadline and sign a $6 million deal, do not cry foul afterward because you believe your client was undervalued, and then bring up a rules violation to the MLBPA.

Will the Pirates ever draft another Boras client?  While potential Boras clients be turned off by the fact that at least one team probably won’t be looking at acquiring them?

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.

3 replies on “The Pirates Got Boras’ed”

Great post. Thanks. You tied in some of your legal knowledge about contracts, which helped me understand this situation. I thought an interesting idea was that the MLB office got Hosmer’s deal in after Alvarazes’, so if he is making this claim for Pedro then Hosmer’s deal might be voidable. Isn’t Boras just a little upset that he didn’t get his guy as much as he probably told the family…cost the player some valuable playing time. As an agent, what lessons do you learn?

I don’t see any other explanation for why Boras would go to the MLBPA to have them file a grievance other than the fact that upon further reflection, and perhaps complaints headed his way, the $6 million was no longer sufficient. As an agent, there are many things to take away from this situation. The signing deadline is obviously something that must for now on be taken very seriously. Agents will probably not wait until 11:59pm to have their players signed…now they’ll get it done at 11:45pm. Additionally, look at the bridges collapsing for Boras. The Pirates are disgusted with the guy right now. Reputation management is very important in this business. Boras may have gotten to big for his own good. An agent has a fiduciary duty to ALL of his clients, not just Hosmer, not just Alvarez.

Although I agree that deadlines are to be respected when negotiating contracts, It is always important to consider the spirit of the law, and not just the letter of the law. There have have been many instances in my career when I was able to conclude an agreement long after a prescribed deadline. So long as all the parties to the contract benefit there should be no problem. In fact I would venture to say that a bit of flexibility is actually a good thing as it lends itself to a more congenial atmosphere in which to do a deal.

Keep up the good work!

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