Boras Not to Blame for Madson Lowball

When one is considered the epitome of evil, blame follows that person even when it’s unwarranted.

Because Scott Boras is considered the puppetmaster/hypnotist/Svengali over his clients, he’s being held responsible for Ryan Madson’s fall from a desired multi-year contract worth $40+ million to a 1-year, $8.5 million contract.

But this time, he’s innocent.

In more of an accident of circumstance, Madson was undone by several factors.

Let’s take a look.

The flooded market.

This winter the free agent closer market included: Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, Madson, Heath Bell and Joe Nathan. Papelbon replaced Madson in Philadelphia for $50 million over 4-years; Bell signed with the Marlins for $27 million over 3-years; and Nathan took a 2-year, $14.75 million deal from the Rangers. In other moves, the Red Sox traded for Andrew Bailey and the Mets signed the lower-level Frank Francisco.

K-Rod had also made a high-profile hiring of Boras over the summer and has several legitimate gripes with his agent after the failure to submit a list of teams to whom he could not be traded by the Mets; for getting him to waive his 2012 option for free agency and needing to accept arbitration from the Brewers for lack of good offers—he didn’t need an agent to make this array of gaffes.

There are only so many teams that needed a closer and had the money to pay Madson or K-Rod. Like other free agents like Prince Fielder, Madson wasn’t helped by the Dodgers, Yankees and Mets not entering the bidding.

The altered landscape financially and strategically.

For every team like the Phillies that values their closer and is willing to pay him big money, there are eight teams that have decided a closer can be found cheaply or developed.

I don’t believe that the prototypical “anyone” can close—the statistics of clubs winning 95% (or something to that effect) of the games that they lead after eight innings no matter who their closer is can be misleading—but the reluctance to pay someone a huge amount of cash because he racked up saves is growing more prevalent.

In the future, the more thoughtful pitchers who are capable of starting or relieving are going to prefer starting strictly for financial reasons. There’s more money in being a starter.

Teams are shunning the concept of a big money closer. The Rangers in particular decided that Neftali Feliz would have more value as a starter and determined that he could make the transition, so they signed Nathan to replace him and shifted him into the rotation.

Some pitchers are addicted to the rush of being a reliever, but others who are more practical and are capable of doing both will prefer to start for the money.

The reality for Madson and Boras’s calculation.

Boras isn’t stupid. It probably dawned on him after the Phillies deal fell apart and the other dominoes fell that he and Madson might have to take a shorter term deal somewhere. Could he have given this offer to the Red Sox and would they have taken it? Probably. But Madson will put up better numbers in the weaker hitting National League—where’s he’s comfortable and familiar with the hitters—than he might dealing with Fenway Park and the power hitting lineups he’d have to face. With the Reds, he has a great chance of having a big year for a contending team. Apart from Mariano Rivera and K-Rod, there are no big name closers entering free agency after 2012 and Rivera, if he pitches in 2013, will be pitching for the Yankees.

With a great year in Cincinnati, Madson will be back on the market and poised to make a free agent killing again. Will he let his agent use the same strategy that failed this time though? Or will he tell him to get a deal done fast?

This is the world we live in now and blaming Scott Boras for Madson is easy, convenient, ignorant of facts and completely wrong.

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