Breaking Down the Pedro Alvarez Situation

 

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Who is Julio Borbon, and should he be really angry with Scott 
Boras right now? (Photo: Rich Anderson)

If Dejan Kovacevic got all the details right, he should be really proud of this story, which is very interesting and clear despite the situation being really complex and without precedent, and despite the story only having broken hours ago. Still, there are a couple details that need to be teased out.

Basically, Kovacevic makes it sound like the players' association will file a grievance. That grievance will be argued before an arbitrator on September 10. If the arbitrator decides in favor of Major League Baseball (which is accused of "unilaterally" deciding to extend the draft signing deadline past midnight), I take it that the Pirates' contract with Alvarez will be binding. If the arbitrator decides in favor of the players' association, then I assume there would have to be some separate process to determine whether the Pirates and Alvarez actually failed to agree to the contract before midnight (since that point still seems to be in dispute), although Kovacevic does not say what this process would be. 

If, by whatever process, it were determined that Alvarez didn't sign until after midnight, then Kovacevic reports that three things could happen:

1) Boras could be allowed to re-negotiate the contract.

2) The contract could be voided and Alvarez could be allowed to re-enter the draft.

3) The contract could stand and the commissioner's office could be prevented from allowing teams to negotiate past midnight.

Possibility 1 would obviously be Boras' first choice, but it seems highly unlikely that would happen, since it's so weirdly arbitrary. If the issue is that Alvarez did not agree to the contract until a few minutes after the deadline, why would the proper remedy be to allow Boras and the Pirates to negotiate a month after the deadline? Wouldn't the proper remedy be to either just scrap the contract entirely or to let it stand?

I can't imagine that anyone--not the Pirates, not Alvarez and probably not even Boras--wants option number two. Alvarez would re-enter the draft next year as a college senior (if he's even allowed to go back and play for Vanderbilt, which I doubt) and have less leverage than he has now. And if Kansas City Royals top pick and Boras client Eric Hosmer did, in fact, agree to a contract after the deadline, as Baseball America reported, then Boras could be getting himself in big trouble by allowing option number two to occur. (The Royals, incidentally, say Hosmer was signed by the deadline.) Hosmer, like Alvarez, got $6 million, and I have seen no indication he is unhappy with that. Hosmer would presumably be incensed with Boras if Boras got his contract voided for no other reason than to wrangle a few more dollars for another client.

Kovacevic reports that another Boras client, Rangers minor leaguer Julio Borbon (mistakenly named "Pedro Borbon" in the article) received an extension in last year's draft. Would that contract have to be voided as well, and all the bonus money returned? I don't think Borbon, who hasn't been terribly exciting this year, would appreciate that very much. Basically, he's a 22-year-old outfield prospect in Class AA who has no plate discipline and no power but is really fast. Next year, he'd be 23 if he re-entered the draft. Think anyone would pony up a big league contract for him? It's possible, but if I were him I might worry about it. The funny thing is that Major League Baseball will argue that the players' union has no grounds to argue about minor league contracts, and the Alvarez and Hosmer contracts were minor league contracts. Borbon's is actually a four-year major league contract. So Boras is opening quite a can of worms here. He didn't have any problem with Borbon's contract, and that's the one that would seem to be most problematic at this point. If you were Julio Borbon, how would you feel about your choice of agents right now?

(UPDATE: A number of people, here and elsewhere, have disagreed with my assessment of Borbon's abilities, which may disprove my overall point about his contract. I wouldn't pick the guy in the first round, but perhaps I'm in the minority there. Frankly, though, he strikes as a version of Chris Duffy --a better prospect than Duffy was, certainly, but the same type of player, and to me he's doing things to succeed in the minors that won't work in the majors, where players can do things like field and throw baserunners out and locate their pitches. Rare is the player who succeeds as a hitter in the majors these days without either plate discipline or power. You don't need both, and at Borbon's age the power doesn't have to be home run power, but having at least one of those abilities helps, and Borbon doesn't have either. Without that, I think there's very little upside there, because his foot speed isn't likely to increase as he gets older and major league defenders are going to be a lot better than minor leaguers at keeping up with him. People still fall in love with these sorts of players all the time, mostly, I think, because they ignore the issue of walks. Borbon, for example, has been compared to Johnny Damon and Kenny Lofton. To me, that's apples and oranges, because both Damon and Lofton drew enough walks in the minors that it appeared they'd be able sustain OBPs high enough to make them productive leadoff hitters. I don't know--maybe the yeasayers will turn out to be right, but I'm not buying what Borbon is selling at all. Again, it appears that I'm in the minority... but, if Borbon had to give back his bonus and wait nine months for the next draft, I can't imagine he'd be too happy about that. That's unlikely, but based on what's been reported so far, I don't know why it would be impossible.)

I think, then, that option number three--in which the contracts stand--is most likely, if the situation even gets to that point, which I'm not sure it will. All of which means that Boras has engineered a lengthy process that isn't likely to net Alvarez another dime, and in the meantime will delay the start of Alvarez's professional career by several months, likely prevent him from getting to the majors next season, and anger the Pirates' entire fanbase. All of which suggests to me that Scott Boras is a jerk, and Pedro Alvarez, Eric Hosmer and Julio Borbon need to get new agents.

Again, you lawyers in the house, correct me if I've made any mistakes.

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