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Jim Bowden Discusses Boras’ Negotiating Power; Disregard For NCAA Rules?

The 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft officially began last night.  One round and Comp Round A is in the books; rounds two through fifty still remain (along with Comp Round B).  Many top picks are advised by Scott Boras, including #1 overall pick Gerritt Cole, Anthony Rendon, Bubba Starling, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin, and Josh Bell.  Boras also represents the last two #1 overall picks (2010 – Bryce Harper, 2009 – Stephen Strasburg).

The Pittsburgh Pirates will have their hands full negotiating with Gerritt Cole.  In 2008, the Pirates had fun dealing with Pedro Alvarez, also a Boras client, who was selected #2 overall.  Initial reports indicated that the Pirates signed Alvarez for a $6 million bonus, but Boras claimed that Alvarez refused to sign the deal with the Pirates until 45 minutes after the signing deadline, which would have made the deal null and void.  The Major League Baseball Players Association looked into the matter and found that the rules were violated by the signing which apparently took place post-deadline.  Later, Alvarez agreed to a 4-year Major League deal with the Pirates that included a $6.355 million bonus.

Stories like this give us an idea of what it must be like to negotiate with Scott Boras, but nothing is as good as hearing it straight from someone who has a past of negotiating with the head of Boras Corp.  A few days ago, Jim Bowden provided everybody with a treat by going there – writing a breakdown of Boras’ negotiating style.  Bowden starts with the pre-draft process.

Boras will talk to all 30 scouting directors, general managers and owners (if they’ll take the phone call). He will give him his expectations for his client list — how he values them (not in terms of specific dollars but against previously signed talent) and reminds clubs that his player could re-enter the draft or go to college. If he’s talking with a small-market club whose history includes not paying over recommended slot, Boras might suggest that they pass on that player because he probably won’t sign with them and then will suggest maybe they draft one of his second-round type players in the first round because they could afford him. He also will look at an organization’s depth chart from the major leagues to the minor leagues. If a team has an All-Star catcher in the major leagues and a top catching prospect at Double-A, he might advise a team not to draft his catcher, realizing it might take his client longer to get to the major league team in that organization, thus delaying arbitration and free agency — where the real money is. He wants clubs to be prepared to pay the price if you draft one of his players.

It sounds like a very strong and effective strategy.  However, Bowden probably did not realize nor intend it when he wrote the piece for ESPN, but stating that Boras has direct communications with all 30 scouting directors, general managers and owners is the same as saying that Boras violates NCAA Bylaw in the advising process for each of his clients.  NCAA Bylaw reads as follows: Presence of a Lawyer at Negotiations. A lawyer may not be present during discussions of a contract offer with a professional organization or have any direct contact (i.e., in person, by telephone or by mail) with a professional sports organization on behalf of the individual. A lawyer’s presence during such discussions is considered representation by an agent.

Boras advised former University of Kentucky baseball player James Paxton, who was suspended after he would not cooperate with NCAA investigators who wanted to question him about Boras supposedly having direct communication with a Blue Jays front office member after Paxton was drafted.  Between the Paxton controversy and Bowden’s piece, I assume the NCAA will be keeping a close eye on Boras Corp. employees.

NCAA Bylaws aside, the Bowden piece is a great read.  It includes Boras’ great leverage game, how he employs his own slotting system, and the record-breaking Boras draft deals he has negotiated.

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.

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