Last offseason we witnessed super-agent Scott Boras gone wrong. Phillies closer Ryan Madson appeared headed for a multi-year mega-deal. The deal with the Phillies fell through (I suspect a failed physical, though no one would ever admit it) and Madson sat around until the last minute and ended up with a one-year, $8 million deal from the Cincinnati Reds. This offseason, Boras strikes again, and three big name Boras clients remain unsigned: former Phillies Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse and closer Rafael Soriano.
Yesterday, Boras made a pretty silly statement when Jerry Crasnick of ESPN asked about his clients sitting unsigned. Boras believes he has "steak".
People call me all the time and say, 'Man, your players aren't signed yet.' Well, it doesn't really matter what time dinner is when you're the steak.
I like steak. But, I eat it selectively. Most often I go for chicken, but am aware that a higher-priced option that is good exists if I want it. The problem is, right now nobody wants to pay for steak. Chicken is a good second option.
The 2013 offseason presents a new challenge: the "qualifying offer". Instead of classifying free agents as class A or class B, teams losing a player may instead make what they call a "qualifying offer". The offer means that the player is offered a one-year contract at a rate of pay equal to the average of the top 125 contracts in MLB. This season the offer was $13.3 million. Lohse, Soriano, and Bourn all turned down qualifying offers. Not only do teams have to pony up Boras steak-dollars, but they must give up a top draft pick to sign one of these players. That isn't happening.
The Rafael Soriano situation is pretty baffling. The contract negotiated between Boras and the Yankees was for three years and $39 million, with an opt-out after each year. Soriano opted out of a third year worth $14 million and declined the $13.3 million qualifying offer. Now what will he get? Surely less than either. The Yankees said "no thanks" to Boras suggesting he would return to the Yankees on a one-year deal.
Michael Bourn seemed primed for big bucks. Then the Atlanta Braves went for B.J. Upton instead. Then the Nationals traded for Denard Span. Then the Phillies traded for Ben Revere. Boras counted on those three teams competing for Bourn's services and driving up the prices. Now, Bourn has no clear landing spot. For a team without a strong need, the desire to give up a draft pick for a flyer is not worth it.
Kyle Lohse is a good pitcher. Good, not great. He is also getting older. When the Phillies traded for Lohse back in 2007 he was still a twenty-something. Think Roy Halladay is getting older? Lohse is just seven months younger. Lohse simply is not worth the draft pick and high salary for multiple years.
So, Where Do They Go? Here are my best guesses:
Michael Bourn - Mariners
The Mariners are desperate for offense...ANY offense. Sometimes there is a team left over at the end with money to spend where no one wants to play. Then the top player has to swallow hard and accept the deal. This is is going to be that situation.
Kyle Lohse - Cardinals
Just the other day, Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said Lohse "doesn't make much sense" for the Cardinals. Right now he doesn't. When Lohse has nowhere to go and has to settle for something, then he makes sense. As the only team who does not have to give up a draft pick to sign Lohse, a one-year $8 million deal may be all he can get from anyone. Ouch.
Rafael Soriano - Tigers?
I say "Tigers" with a question mark because the Tigers still need a closer. We saw Jose Valverde's career collapse as the Tigers headed to the World Series and they have yet to replace him with anyone proven. The Tigers could opt for a Brian Wilson on a low-cost one-year deal. Soriano is going to be squeezed the most by Boras. He may get his best chance at a job if he fires Boras.