Boras: ‘We have a duty to create boundaries’

Agent Scott Boras (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Scott Boras doesn’t hesitate to think big.

The longtime baseball agent joined Joey Vendetta on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Monday, and in the span of 20 minutes he proposed to reform the MLB draft, expressed his distaste for salary caps in pro sports, and outlined the need for clear boundaries surrounding performance-enhancing drug use.

Boras, who represents dozens of MLB players including Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Carlos Gonzalez, Bryce Harper and Jered Weaver, explained that for baseball to address performance-enhancing drug use, clear expectations must exist with respect to rules and discipline.

“We have a duty to create known boundaries,” Boras said.

In  past years, Boras continued, the league and the MLB Players Association did not provide players with the correct governance. Now both sides must establish clear expectations in the view of the Newport Beach, Calif.-based agent.

Boras, the former agent of Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez who has been given a 211-game suspension by MLB for his connection with the Biogenesis clinic accused of distributing PEDs, said it’s fair to punish the players who have violated the sport’s Joint Drug Agreement. These players violated clear rules, unlike the players who performed 15-20 years ago under much murkier circumstances.

Boras also addressed a variety of topics related to MLB. Here are some highlights:

Scott Boras on Sportsnet 590 the FAN

On the shortcomings of MLB’s amateur draft:

Boras explained that the amateur draft artificially limits spending on domestic players and leads to greater bonuses for foreign-born players. Instituted in 1965, baseball’s rule 4 draft caps costs for owners while ostensibly creating competitive balance.

But while American and Canadian players such as Harper have caps regulating their bonuses, Cuban-born players regularly obtain tens of millions of dollars because different rules apply to their bonuses.

“The teams have the money to spend, they’re just using the system to re-allocate the money from American and Canadian players to Cuban players,” Boras said.

That inequality should be addressed in Boras’ view.

He expressed the view that top amateur talents such as Harper and Stephen Strasburg almost always produce at the MLB level. Yet not all draft classes include those elite prospects, and MLB spending rules are not responsive to the talent available from one year to the next.

“The issue is when you’re paying $1-2 million to a player that does not carry the talent or certainty,” Boras said.

The agent explained that the draft spending limits instituted under the most recent collective bargaining agreement can prevent teams from adding top talents.

He pointed out that one of his clients, right-hander Mark Appel, could now be the property of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But the first round draft pick declined to sign with the Pirates in 2012, then obtained a larger bonus from the Houston Astros in 2013.

“I believe you’re dis-servicing an organization,” Boras said. “You’re also preventing that franchise from taking advantage for such important picks.”

On former Toronto Blue Jays draft pick Phil Bickford:

Phil Bickford, the Blue Jays’ first round pick in 2013, did not sign with the team. Boras called Bickford a “fine talent” and suggested that factors other than money “may have been a part of the issue” that kept the sides from reaching a deal.

On his view that salary caps do more harm than good:

Boras said he believes salary caps are ‘detrimental to sport’ and explained that he would not welcome such a system to MLB.

“It does not work,” Boras said. “It’s proven. What works best is freedom.”

There’s little reason for any player agent to speak up in favour of a salary cap, since their clients (and, in turn, their bank accounts) benefit when fewer spending regulations exist. At the same time, there’s little reason to expect MLB and the MLBPA to agree to a salary cap system any time soon.

Boras explained that he wants owners to remain accountable to fans, and argued that fans can evaluate owners more capably if teams have freedom of choice with respect to spending.

On the Blue Jays’ ability to recruit free agent players:

Boras said MLB players don’t hesitate to sign with the Blue Jays.

“Players view Toronto like any other Major League city,” he said.

The Blue Jays signed free agents Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera last winter, when they also took on considerable salary via trades.

On how he relaxes:

Boras tries to watch one baseball game every night, and aims to see every MLB team play at least nine times over the course of a season. That allows him to spend time at the ballpark, something he enjoys greatly.

“There’s nothing more enjoyable than to live the life of being at the ballpark,” he said.

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