Is Scott Boras That Good of an Agent?

In Sunday’s AJC, Thomas Stinson profiles Scott Boras. The article provoked a thought that I have been having for some time: is Scott Boras really that much better than other sports agents? He is not bad at his job, but I’m not certain that he is really any better at negotiating than many other agents.

I’d love to do a study on this, but data on who represents whom in sports is too annoying for me to aggregate. But, after thinking about this, I suspect that Boras gets so much flack simply because he represents the top players in the game. Of course, his clients are going to get big salaries. His negotiation tactics are often reported to be shrewd, but what negotiation isn’t contentious? When I read about negotiations involving other agents, teams are often bitter with the other side.

I think the real difference with Boras is that he has built up a reputation that allows the best to be drawn to him. And he doesn’t seem to hide from the press. In fact, his best talent may not be negotiation, but in convincing players to hire him. And if I’m a player who has no idea what my talents will bring, having a familiar name with a reputation for snagging big contracts is going to be a big comfort.

I have also wondered if Boras offers players guaranteed minimums in order to get them to be his client. For example, he might say, “I know you will take $5 million, but this team will pay you $7 million. Let me play hardball, and I will give you $5 million myself if the contract falls through.” Over a period of time, if he wins out he wins enough to payback any losses he incurs.

4 Responses “Is Scott Boras That Good of an Agent?”

  1. Marc Schneider says:

    JC, I think that’s a real good point. Boras is no better than the players he represents. He basically represents stars or players that have high leverage, eg, starting pitchers. How good would he be if he represented marginal middle infielders?

    People complain that Boras is responsible for running up salaries but it’s not Boras–it’s simple supply and demand economics. Demand for great baseball players is greater than the supply. Boras may have the ability to extract some extra dollars by his willingness to play hardball but all of these guys would make a lot of money regardless of who represents them or even if they represented themselves. Salaries have gone up because revenues have gone up.

  2. pawnking says:

    I have often wondered at the fact that Boras is sometimes vilified by writers. He’s representing kids with high-school educations against billionaires and corporations with teams of lawyers. And he’s the bad guy? I wish I had such a friend when I was in my 20s and wondering how to ask my boss for a raise. As I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten easier, but it’s always been tough even for someone grounded in economics and accounting like me.

  3. Tom Kellum says:

    The ability to attract good clients is what separates
    successful trial lawyers from others in that profession. Just like with sports agents such as Mr. Boras.

  4. EMan says:

    As someone who has worked in baseball for 20+ years, I can tell you that Boras is great at prevaricating, whether the context is arbitration hearings or contract negotiations. Maybe others would call it bluffing, but it is what is.