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Is Scott Boras devil or angel?

Posted December. 27, 2019 07:51,   

Updated December. 27, 2019 07:52


Scott Boras, Ryu Hyun-jin’s agent who earned him a four-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, goes by “the devil” among the club officials of the Major League Baseball. The shrewd negotiator always finds the way to raise the prices of his clients higher than market values. His strategies range from stalling time to building rivalry between different clubs. Boras is known to hire all types of experts such as scouters, physical trainers, sports psychologists, computer engineers and even economists. That’s why players call him “an angel.”

The Toronto deal is a success in terms of the size of the contract. It didn’t reach the 100 million dollar mark he promised, but a four-year, 80-million-dollar contract is a winner given the current sentiment of the FA market. Boras is known to have refused to sign a deal over a different of 50,000 dollars, so 80 million must have been the best deal he could get for Ryu. Indeed, Boras must have been the devil to Toronto.

But I am not sure if Boras is an angel to Ryu. The money was good, but the team he chose for Ryu is rather far from satisfactory. Players say money equals pride. This is why the players seek after Boras and they are mostly satisfied. But the cases of other Korean Big Leaguers such as Park Chan-ho or Choo Shin-soo make you think again about the definition of a successful deal.

Typically, agents have two roles. One is to manage his players to maximize their performance, and the other is to read the market trend and raise their prices to the highest. Fulfilling both roles will simply translate into the best deal. But Boras only focuses on the prices. He never negotiates so hard with any club to help his players acclimate to the new home. This naturally draws the attention from bidders who will only talk money when adjustment is crucial to foreign players like Ryu.

Toronto is in the American League with more advantage for batters, and it belongs to the notorious East Division. The home stadium is also more favorable for batters. Ryu carries injury risks, and he might suffer other complications as it was a long season for him. Toronto does not have the same knowhow as the Dodgers to manage Asian players. The clubs that have worked with Asian players know how to boost their performance. They wait when needed and offer support where needed. This nuanced knowhow translates into better records for the team.

Ryu might have had a different perspective about his new contract, but as long as he worked with Boras, the Korean could not escape his pace. Recently, news circulated about Ryu’s preference for West teams close to Los Angeles, but his wish was dismissed by a single remark by Boras that “Any club is far from Seoul.”

Whether Boras is an angel or a devil will be decided by Ryu’s hands. His performance will be put under scrutiny for the next four years in a very different environment. Ryu has set a record as the Korean pitcher with the largest size of FA deal in the MLB, but his fans must want that he will be remembered as the first Korean Big Leaguer to have finished his years in the MLB successfully. That is a real pride.

Eun-Taek Lee nabi@donga.com