Baseball super agent Scott Boras is, in no uncertain terms, upset about the process that’s lead up to Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani’s arrival in Major League Baseball.
Ohtani, after a posting agreement was finalized last week, is set to hit the open market Friday. The catch is: Since he’s an international free agent under 25, the market isn’t as open as it could be. MLB rules put a hard cap on how much teams can spend on international free agents under 25, so the most money Ohtani could possibly get is $3.5 million from the Texas Rangers. Some teams have as little as $10,000 to offer Ohtani.
This isn’t about the money for Ohtani, who has long expressed his desire to play on baseball’s most competitive stage. To do so, he’s willing to leave upward of $200 million on the table. Were he over 25, Ohtani could be a true free agent and sign with any team for any amount. Since he’s a two-way star who can throw 100 mph and hit long home runs, getting upward of $200 million on the open market would be entirely plausible.
This is where Boras comes in. Now, Boras isn’t Ohtani’s agent. Ohtani chose Nez Balelo of Creative Artists Agency. But on matters of baseball players cashing big ol’ checks, there’s no one who speaks better than Boras, who is known to opine at length about why his clients deserve huge contracts each winter.
Even for a non-client like Ohtani, Boras came out spitting venom at MLB for its rules about a player like Ohtani. Boras told Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic:
“The union will tell you they do not want to bar a player from coming here as long as he is aware of his rights, Boras said. “The player will tell you his lifelong dream is to play in MLB. Underneath it all, his Japanese team took their interest to the forefront. They won the title a year ago and now Ohtani would have cost (approximately $5 million) in Japan. Most importantly they want $20 million now and don’t want the risk of him getting hurt and losing the money.
“Now the unsuspecting (2016 Pacific League MVP) no longer has the protection of his Japanese team or the MLB posting rules. He is precocious, greatness cast adrift, forced into the MLB lifeboat. And his admission is handcuffs that prevent him from getting at least what his older, lesser valued peers received—in Tanaka’s case, more than $150 million. Is this an international event or an international incident?”
Yes, that is the Scott Boras we all know. He speaks in headlines and his phrases are as sharp as Ohtani’s slider. Major League Baseball, for its side in this, says it has tried to make the international free-agent process as fair as possible. As Rosenthal’s article notes, picking 25 years old as the cut-off means that a player like Ohtani will hit free agency around the same time as a player from the U.S. who went through the normal draft procedures.
But Boras’ appeal here is that MLB isn’t doing right by Japanese ballplayers by allowing MLB teams to take advantage of Ohtani’s desire to play in America. It doesn’t just take money away from Ohtani, but it reflects poorly on the league, Boras says.
“Ohtani is the greatest expression of the NPB and we need to honor that league’s contribution to the greatest league of all,” Boras said. “We need to protect this relationship and advance for generations the positive bridge that allows Japan’s greatest players—and especially the innocent youth—to want to leave their homes and family to advance to the MLB.
“If NPB players are ridiculed and taken advantage of — even with their consent — we have destroyed years of goodwill and respect the MLB once showed the NPB. This great league and its players — especially Ohtani — deserve better.”
Spoken like a true super agent. Something to consider, though: Ohtani is a bit of a unicorn. Not only because of his two-way talent, but because most international superstars — like Masahiro Tanaka — would wait until they’re 25 and collect every bit of their money. So there’s a good chance we don’t see another case like Ohtani’s for a while.
But if we know anything about Scott Boras, he’ll still be fighting to get players paid the next time it does happen.
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