Monday, March 17, 2008

Suing Scott Boras?

Rob Neyer directed my attention to a piece by an attorney named Jason Wolf at Dugout Central suggesting that Kyle Lohse should sue Scott Boras over winding up in St. Louis on a low money, one year deal:
During the offseason, Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, reportedly advised his client to reject the Phillies’ three-year, $21 million offer, apparently under the belief that he could get a deal for five years at about $10 million per year. So how much did Boras’ ego and bad advice cost Lohse? It’s not entirely clear yet, because Lohse could earn more than $1 million in incentives, but it’s safe to say he lost about $15 million in guaranteed money . . . If I were Lohse’s attorney I would advise him to consider suing Boras for negligence.
I agree that Lohse ended up way worse off than we all thought he would, but to say Wolf is jumping the gun is an insult to respectable gun-jumpers everywhere.

He starts out with a big assumption -- that Boras actually instructed Lohse to reject the Phillies 3/$21M deal -- that we don't know to be the case. For starters, we're not aware if there actually was an offer on the table in the first place. But let's say there was. Did Boras order that it be rejected? Did here merely suggest to Lohse that there was greater money to be had elsewhere? Did he fail to communicate the offer to Lohse? Did Lohse give him standing orders on how much money he wanted? Did Lohse tell him that he wanted the biggest deal he could get, or did he tell him that he really wanted to be in nice quiet city with a friendly media, which Philly quite cleary ain't?

All of those nuances matter, and whether Boras has breached any duty of care he owes Lohse changes depends on the answers to those questions. Wolf bases his assumption that Boras rejected the offer himself on this piece, but that only says that "that Lohse and agent Scott Boras rejected the Phillies' three-year, $21 million offer during the offseason." While we can suspect that Boras wasn't a wallflower in those conversations, who's to say that Lohse wasn't driving the bus on that rejection and acting contrary to Boras' advice?

Given Boras' background as an attorney -- and given how much we attorneys concern ourselves with backside preservation -- I'm fairly confident that Boars couches all of his advice in such a way as to put the decision in the player's hands, even if he's pushing for a certain outcome himself:
"It's totally up to you, Alex. Ultimately you're the guy who has to play ball and give quotes to the papers. I'm just a servant here. BUT -- and it's just my opinion -- I think the Yankees will blink and offer you a big deal if you opt out. Just tell me what you want me to do."

"Look Kyle, I know 3/$21M is big dollars, but if you look around at some of the crazy starter-money out there over the past couple of years, I have to think there's more to be had. Hey, this is your call, and if you want to take that Phillies offer, I'll pick up the phone and tell them we have a deal now."
In my mind, the only way Lohse has a case against Boras is if (a) Boras didn't tell him about an offer or somehow hid some information from him; or (b) if he guaranteed something, and I'd be really surprised if either of those things happened.

Does that mean Boras did a good job? Heck no. I'd guess that even if he couches his advice in opinion as described above, his manner and reputation are such that many players put too much trust in him and/or feel like they have to do what he says. That's bad, and given what we know of Boras, I'd steer clear of him if I were a player.

But there's a big difference between bad advice and malpractice, and I'm quite certain that Scott Boras of all people knows the difference between the two.


64cardinals said...

Isn't the reason that other players (Sheffield, Rogers, Rodrigurez) have either dumped Boras or negotiated themselves the fact that Boras insists on complete control, and that whatever deal he comes up with is what they accept? Seems to me I've read that multiple times. How would that affect the case, if true?

It seems the trend is that players are dumping Boras becasue he won't listen to what they want, and goes after the deal (the most dollars) that he wants.

Of course, I guess if that's what they signed on for, and that's what they get, then they don't really have a complaint. Except we still live in an age of no personal responsibility, where people don't have to be responsible for their own actions as long as they can blame someone else.

Shyster said...

"Isn't the reason that other players (Sheffield, Rogers, Rodrigurez) have either dumped Boras or negotiated themselves the fact that Boras insists on complete control, and that whatever deal he comes up with is what they accept? Seems to me I've read that multiple times. How would that affect the case, if true?"

I don't know the specifics of the deals Boras makes with his clients, but on its face, such an arrangment as you describe would (a) violate legal ethics rules; and (b) arguably violate any fiduciary duties agents owe their clients (at least I assume there is a fiduciary duty there; I don't know the law on this).

Boras is a lawyer, though I'm not sure if he's an active memeber of a bar. I'd make the argument that he insisted on such a deal, it would be grounds for disbarrment. He may have that kind of practical power, but if he's making players formally sign away their decisionmaking authority, he has crossed a line.

I will agree with you that even if it's not memorialized on paper, Boras at least seems to be ruffling some of his clients' feathers. Unless we know the details of the negotiations, however, we can't say whether he's taking advantage of anyone or merely taking the heat.

Mile_end said...

I think the duration also impacts the nature. IF the 3/21 (aav of $7) was on the table then Lohse is losing 2.5m in guaranteed money, and either more or less depending on what the Phillies' contract called for by way of incentives.

He's not really losing anything on years 2 and 3, as he is entitled to sign with other ballclubs following the end of this season. I am not any type of lawyer, but it's not like Boras additionally removed his ability to play baseball longer