Boras' tactics loom over market for Prince
Agent operates in darkness, amid smoke and shadows and illusion
What's the market for Prince Fielder? Plenty of baseball executives would love to know the answer to that one. Welcome to the world of Scott Boras.
The Orioles are in. The Orioles are out. Possibly. The Nationals definitely are in unless they happen to be out. The Mariners have some interest. Most likely. The Blue Jays, too.
The Cubs make some sense, but they've said nothing. The Rangers? They appear to be sitting this one out, but don't bet next month's rent on them staying out.
And don't forget the mystery team. Boras always has one or two of them in play. Do they exist?
The Red Sox doubted a mystery team existed in their negotiations with Boras regarding Johnny Damon six years ago.
Turns out, Boras did have a mystery team. Turns out, that mystery team was the Yankees.
The Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252-million deal after the 2000 season. At the time, they believed they were lucky to have survived the negotiating process because the competition had been fierce.
Only thing is, the Atlanta Braves believed they had the second-highest offer on the table and that it was about $100 million less than what the Rangers ended up paying. The Braves wondered if the Rangers might have been bidding against themselves for those final $100 million.
Boras says there indeed was a mystery team involved and that it took every last nickel of that $252 million to get A-Rod to Texas.
He used similar tactics with the Astros after the 2004 season. They'd acquired Carlos Beltran for the stretch run, and he'd performed brilliantly. They badly wanted to re-sign him and began by putting $75 million on the table. Boras did not counter. They threw another $15 million into the deal and then another $10 million. Boras did not counter either.
Boras would only tell the Astros that their offer wasn't satisfactory, and yet he would not give them a dollar figure to negotiate from. In doing so, he created confusion and anxiety. The Astros didn't know if Boras was playing them or if he really did have a better offer elsewhere.
Could it have been that Beltran simply didn't want to play for them? Years later, the Astros still aren't sure how it all went down. They were so desperate to get a deal done that owner Drayton McLane telephoned Boras one morning and said, "Scott, we're running out of time."
Cue the sound of crickets.
After Beltran agreed to a seven-year, $119-million deal with the Mets, Boras said the Astros would have landed Beltran if they'd included a full no-trade clause. He said all the economic issues had been agreed to.
The Astros said this was not true. They said they had not agreed to either the length of the contract or the amount of the money, much less a no-trade clause.
Two years ago when Boras was negotiating a deal for No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals became frustrated with the pace of the negotiations. In other words, there weren't any.
Later, I asked a Nationals executive when serious talks begin.
"You know Scott," the guy said. "We finally got around to negotiating on the morning of the deadline to sign."
Fast forward to Prince Fielder.
It would appear that no team interested in Fielder knows where it stands. It's even difficult to know which teams are interested because Boras has at times been able convince teams that they absolutely must have the guy they didn't even know they wanted.
Just because there has been so little buzz means absolutely nothing. Boras operates in the darkness, amid smoke and shadows and illusion.
As for a price tag, that's easy. When Albert Pujols signed a 10-year, $254-million deal with the Angels, that probably became Boras' starting point for Fielder.
Boras has shot down reports that Fielder would accept a shorter contract with a sky-high annual salary, telling ESPN Chicago on Tuesday, "Not only is that inaccurate and delusional, but it seems that some people have gotten into their New Year's Eve stash just a little bit early this year."
From a baseball standpoint, Fielder would make sense almost anywhere. He'd give the Cubs and Orioles a franchise player to build around. He might put the Nationals seriously in the mix in the National League East, and do the same for the Mariners in the American League West.
For the Rangers, he'd be the perfect counter-punch to the Angels' signing of Pujols.
Fielder is one of those interesting players who has to be seen a lot to be fully appreciated for the full scope of his game.
Besides being a dynamic offensive player, he's a very good baserunner and is way better at first base than he's given credit for.
In other words, he would make almost any team better. With the start of Spring Training rapidly approaching, his destination is the most interesting question remaining in the marketplace. Your move, Scott.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.