The trouble with Scott Boras

One aspect of this whole Manny fiasco that has been underreported is that the Dodgers’ recent history with Scott Boras clients clearly is playing a role here. Just since Frank McCourt bought the team in February 2004, the list is long, and it doesn’t even count the Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort contracts, which were signed long before Frank and Jamie ever came to town.

Adrian Beltre — Following an MVP-caliber year for the Dodgers in 2004 (he finished second in voting), Beltre becomes a free agent. Dodgers believed they had a promise from Boras to give them a chance to match any offers from any other clubs. That chance to match never comes before Beltre signs a five-year $64 million offer with Seattle. By missing out on Beltre, the Dodgers have enough to money to sign another Boras-represented free agent in right fielder J.D. Drew. More on that later.

Eric Gagne — Two years after winning the Cy Young Award by converting 55 of 55 save opportunities, and one year after taking the club to arbitration, losing and having to accept a $5 million salary for 2004 instead of $8 million, Gagne agrees to terms on a two-year, $19 million deal to avoid arbitration. Gagne blows out his elbow in 2005 and makes a grand total of 16 major-league appearances over the life of the contract.

Luke Hochevar — The Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2005, a pitcher from the University of Tennessee who is being advised by Boras, who is insisting on a signing bonus of at least $3 million. After almost three months of stalled negotiations, Hochevar abruptly dumps Boras, chooses another agent and agrees to a $2.98 million signing bonus. But before the Dodgers can get a scout to Knoxville with a contract for Hochevar to sign, Hochevar just as abruptly drops his new agent, returns to Boras and goes into hiding. He never signs with Dodgers, re-enters the draft the following year and signs a major-league deal with Kansas City for four years, $5.3 million.

J.D. Drew — In giving him an ill-advised five-year, $55 million contract before the 2005 season, money the Dodgers never would have had to spend if they had re-signed Beltre, the Dodgers allow Boras to negotiate into the deal an opt-out clause after the second season. Drew misses most of 2005 with an injury, returns in 2006 to drive in 100 runs, then tells Orange County Register beat reporter Bill Plunkett at the end of that season that he has no plans to exercise the out clause. A month later, Boras informs the Dodgers that Drew WILL exercise the out clause. Drew eventually signs with Boston for five years, $70 million.

Andruw Jones — A year after Drew’s departure, the Dodgers sign Andruw Jones, another Boras client, to play center field. Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star, agrees to a two-year, $36.2 million deal. Jones then showed up to spring training overweight and promptly hit .158 with three homers and 14 RBI and missed significant time following knee surgery. A few weeks ago, the Dodgers renegotiated the second year of the deal to defer most of the salary, then released Jones.

In fairness to Boras, not all of the Dodgers’ dealings with his clients have gone so badly. Derek Lowe was their most reliable starting pitcher during the course of his four-year, $36 million contract, which expired after last year. Greg Maddux pitched well in each of his two abbreviated stints with the club. And of course, without acquiring Ramirez last July 31 (he was now a Boras client), the Dodgers probably wouldn’t have turned around their season and gone all the way to the N.L. Championship Series. But my point here is that the Dodgers have been burned repeatedly in their dealings with Boras and his clients. Rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, that is playing a role in these ongoing Manny negotiations. If their track record with Boras clients hadn’t been so spotty in recent years, it is entirely possible the club wouldn’t be taking such a hard line in these negotiations. But you know the old saying about ifs and buts and candy and nuts.