Miller: On Scott Boras’ first big free agent negotiation

From Sam Miller at Baseball Prospectus on January 25, 2012:

In 1981, the Seattle Mariners had no closer. Seven Mariners saved at least one game, and nobody saved more than eight. Shane Rawley, he of the eight, walked more batters than he struck out, with an ERA worse than the league average. In March of 1982, he gave up 12 runs in 11 spring training innings. Days before the season began, Rawley was traded to the Yankees for Bill Caudill and Gene Nelson, both young pitchers, and cash. Saves weren’t quite such a big deal yet—just one pitcher in the American League had saved more than 20 in the strike-shortened 1981 season, and only five reached even a dozen—so the Mariners entered the 1982 season without a closer.

But Caudill pitched well, surprisingly well, and in Seattle’s 15th game, Caudill earned his first save. The trade to Seattle “was the biggest break of my life,” he said after the game. “I just love being here. I’m finally getting a chance to play. I was a mop-up man.” He would get 26 saves that year and 26 the next. In 1984, he was traded to the A’s, where he saved 36 games and made his first All-Star team. After that season, he was traded once again, to the Blue Jays, and that’s where the fun begins.

Caudill was eligible for arbitration that offseason. He would be eligible for free agency after the 1985 season. His agent was Scott Boras. Or, as a shocking amount of news articles at the time incorrectly identified him, Steve Boras. It was basically the first time anybody had heard of Scott Boras, or Steve Boras. “The attorney from Sacramento is a mere 31, an age when most Perry Masons are still chasing ambulances,” according to the Sacramento Bee. Boras was a former minor-league player, and Caudill was one of his first major-league clients. Caudill and Keith Hernandez had hired Boras around the same time. Boras recalls the players telling him, “We reach out to our reps, but we don’t have anybody that we can talk about the game with, who understands the game from a player’s perfective. I don’t trust them.”

Caudill’s contract would be, as Boras calls it, “my first introduction to owners and negotiators.” But if it was new to Boras, the negotiations revealed an agent who in many ways was already the fully formed super-agent everybody knows now. You know how, after Prince Fielder signed with the Tigers on Tuesday, you heard people talk about how Fielder had belted batting practice home runs out of Tiger Stadium when he was 12 years old? Boras was sort of like that, too. Way too young to be this good, but totally this good.


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Related link: Listen to Scott Boras’ keynote speech from SABR 41, where many of these quotes came from

Originally published: January 25, 2012. Last Updated: January 25, 2012.