There’s an overwhelming dislike for Scott Boras among fans around the league, but especially among Nats fans. Let’s call it what it is…it’s weird. Boras is far and away the best agent in the league. He represents many of the best players in the league. Among those players are former Nationals, Bryce Harper and Juan Soto. If you ask many Nats fans, he’s the reason that neither Harper nor Soto are Nats right now. Although it might help some cope, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s extremely odd to me to hate someone for being really good at their job. To be upset about an agent advising their client not to sign for a discount is equally odd. It’s been widely reported that Boras never made a counteroffer in Soto negotiations and that was a point of contention with a lot of the fanbase. Although it might be frustrating, that’s just how Boras negotiates. It happens that way in free agency, too. Was there a number that the Nats could’ve presented that Soto and Boras would’ve said yes to? Probably, but we’ll also never know for sure.
I’ve also seen tons of people say “well we should just stop dealing with Boras. Don’t draft his players and don’t sign his players.” Is that really a reasonable way to build a team though? I mean think back to 2019. Do the Nats win the World Series without Max, Stras, Soto and Rendon? No chance. All of those guys are Boras clients and “not dealing with him” really isn’t an option if you want to be competitive while not running some sort of illegal operation like Alex Anthopoulos is doing in Atlanta.
Another factor here is the misconception that Boras is the one running the show. Do players trust Boras when he makes a recommendation? Absolutely. Does Boras make the final call? No. Let’s look at a couple of scenarios that we’ve seen play out first hand. Bryce Harper was reportedly offered a 10-year $300 million deal from the Nats in 2018, which he rejected and eventually signed a 13-year $330 million deal with the Phillies. Bryce reportedly thought he was really close to re-signing with the Nats, but that ultimately didn’t happen and he left the team over what turned out to be $30 million, a no-trade clause and no deferred money.
Deferred money is a sticking point among some players, Bryce apparently being one of them. Not to Boras though. He’s done deals with deferrals (Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg being two examples) and without them. He’s done deals with opt-outs and without them. Why? Because ultimately these decisions are made by the players. In this case, Bryce didn’t want deferred money (or at least not a lot of it) and wanted the security of a no-trade clause. The Nats were apparently unwilling to budge on those items and because of that they watched one of their homegrown superstars walk away to a division rival in free agency.
There’s a false narrative that Boras won’t let his clients sign deals before free agency. But Xander Boegarts and Stephen Strasburg might like a word. Boegarts signed a 6-year $120 million deal with the Red Sox in 2020 when he was 27 years old. He was slated to hit free agency after the 2020 season. He would’ve been one of Boras’s top clients to hit the market that offseason. Instead, he signed a below market deal to remain in Boston. Boras knew it was below market and said as much after Boegarts signed the deal. But you know what? He works for Boegarts and Boegarts wanted to stay in Boston. So Boras got him the best deal he could to stay in Boston and also got him an opt-out in the contract, which he can (and almost certainly will) exercise after this season. The same thing happened with Strasburg in 2016. Strasburg went to Boras and said I want to stay in DC. Boras got the best deal he could and got an opt-out as well. Boras would’ve loved to take Strasburg to free agency, but Strasburg said no.
Now, fast forward to this year when the Nats and Juan Soto were trying to negotiate an extension. I think it would be remiss to just say well Juan Soto didn’t want to be here, hence why there weren’t any counter-offers. I firmly believe to this day that Juan Soto wanted to be in DC. But what he and Boras wanted in order to make that happen was an offer that would be similar to what Soto would receive in free agency. The Nats offer was $440 million over 15-years. It’s nothing to scoff at. But the offer was back-loaded and it had a very low AAV for a player like Soto. On top of that, Boras and Soto knew in the back of their minds that Soto is likely going to make between $55-60 million in arbitration alone over the next two seasons before he hits free agency. So the number that they have to beat in free agency is $380-385 million over 13 years. Anything over that means that Soto banked more money by going to free agency than if he had signed the 15-year $440 million offer. Soto is going to blow that number out of the water and everyone knows it.
The offer to Soto was fine, but it was never going to get a deal done. Boras brought up the record breaking $43.3 million AAV that he got Max Scherzer last offseason as a comparable for Soto. Boras and Mike Rizzo both knew that the $43.3 million AAV wasn’t really a comparable, but it shows how large the gap really was between where the Nats were ($29.3 million) and where Boras and Soto were ($43.3 million). The top 5 AAVs in the game right now are $43.3 million, $36 million, $35.5 million, $35.1 million and $35 million (two players – Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon). Of those players, Boras represents 3 (or 4 if you include both Strasburg and Rendon). Boras values AAV as much as he does total value of the contract. The $440 million was likely not a big issue. But getting Soto somewhere in the $35-37 AAV range was, and that would’ve meant either taking a couple of years off the deal and making it a 12-year $440 million offer or adding money to the total value and keeping it at 15-years.
Advising Bryce Harper that he can make more than $300 million and do so without deferrals doesn’t make Scott Boras a bad person. Advising Juan Soto that he can make far more than what the Nats offered doesn’t make Scott Boras a bad person. Advising Juan Soto that the $29.3 million AAV isn’t even in the ballpark of what Soto should be asking for doesn’t make Scott Boras a bad person. But all of those things do make him good at his job and if you want to hate him for that, then go right ahead.
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