Manny Being Manny or Boras Being Boras?

Photo Courtesy of Brent Midwood
Photo by Brent Midwood

As Major League Baseball has questioned the Boston Red Sox trade of Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB denies that it launched a full investigation), the role of superagent Scott Boras has come under fire.  Was the disruptive, childish and petulant behavior of Ramirez just the latest chapter of the “Manny Being Manny” saga?  Or, was Ramirez merely acting out a script written and directed by Boras, aimed at one last pay day to line both of their considerable pockets?

There were two key factors in play.  The first was Ramirez’s contract with the Red Sox.  His 8-year, $160 million contract with the Sox expired after this season – but the team held the option to keep Ramirez in 2009 and 2010 at a cool $20 million per season.

 If the Sox exercised both options, Ramirez would hit the free agent market at thirty-seven years old (turning thirty-eight) early in the 2010 season.  It would appear unlikely that he would command big dollars at that age.  But if the Sox chose not to exercise its option, Manny might have a shot a one more big-money contract before his career comes to an end. 
The second factor was Ramirez’s hiring of Boras in February.  If the Red Sox picked up both option years on Ramirez’s contract, Boras would receive no commission.  He’d have to wait until 2010 to negotiate a contract for Ramirez and make money off his new client.  But, if the option years were not picked up, Boras could seek the highest bidder for Ramirez, who at 36 is still hitting the ball at an elite level (although running and fielding at a below-average level, and only when the spirit moves him).Following the trade, there were disturbing whispers that Boras told the Red Sox front office that Ramirez would behave for the remainder of the season if the team promised not to exercise its options for 2009 and 2010.  Of more concern, are rumblings that Boras forced the trade by advising his client to act out and even refuse to perform at times.  If true, Manny played the part.  One MLB general manager said of Ramirez “[w]hat he did in Boston was criminal.”
Now that Ramirez has been traded – and his contract amended to eliminate the option years – Ramirez can test the market this off-season.  He’ll be seeking a longer-term deal for more than the $20 million per year that the Red Sox could have chosen to pay him.  If he gets a long term deal close to $20 million, Ramirez likely will be in a better financial position than had he stayed in Boston.  Boras however, can only benefit from negotiating a contract for a younger Ramirez.
It is doubtful that Major League Baseball will be able to determine the exact nature of Boras’ role with respect to Manny’s behavior.  After all, Manny’s history with the Red Sox is full of strange and erratic behavior.  But the evidence suggests Boras did at least influence Ramirez.  Furthermore, the situation demonstrates how the interests of an agent could be a factor with respect to a player’s contract, and unfortunately for the Red Sox and its fans, a player’s performance.

For more on the Manny Ramirez trade see:

Jayson Stark: Paying Manny $100M would set dangerous precedent

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