When Matt Wieters was still on the board when the Orioles went to make fifth overall selection in the amateur draft, there was little doubt about who the best available talent was. Still, doubts remained about who they would select.
While Wieters' talent is unquestioned, his choice of representation led many to believe he would be difficult to sign. Scott Boras, the agent for Alex Rodriguez and Daisuke Matsuzaka, among others, has a reputation for making the negotiation process more interesting than many major clubs care to deal with. In this situation, Boras is serving as an advisor to Wieters and his family, so that the player can retain NCAA eligibility.
"Any conversations will be had between the player and his family," Boras told Inside The Warehouse. "I work in the backdrop in these kinds of things."
Although Major League Baseball has published slotting recommendations for each draft position, Boras has a knack for working around these guidelines.
"When I advise families, and this is Matt and his family's decision, this is a talent issue. It's not these same, contrived… they artificially make up these slots. I don't know where slots come from, I don't know the history of them; and why they say that this is what a player should get, because it's about talent. It's also about revenues of the game, when you go to evaluate talent. Each individual player has a talent that is unique to him. And, certainly, my advice to the family is to look at what value a player has, how far he is from the major leagues. And, also, where the revenues of the game are, whether they're up or down, and you have to associate what a player like that means to a particular team."
As an advanced collegiate product, it's possible that Wieters and his family may seek a major league contract, much like Adam Loewen did when he was drafted; but Boras insists that a major league contract is not necessarily a prerequisite.
"Generally, when I advise families, I don't have a requirement about any type of contract, whether it be major league or minor league. I advise families that that is not the relevant issue."
"The relevant issue is the value of the player and his skills to a particular major league team."
The value of Matt Wieters to the Baltimore Orioles may be unprecedented in team history, at least if Boras' hype is justified.
"I've been doing the draft for thirty-plus years and I really have to say, I don't think I've seen a college catcher of this skill level and I've represented some good ones."
"When you talk about catching, it's hard to grade them out [without factoring in their defensive premium], and we're talking about a switch-hitter. Jason Varitek was a very, very good switch-hitter. Mark Teixera was an excellent switch-hitter. Matt Wieters certainly falls into the class of those types of switch-hitters coming out of college."
The Baltimore Orioles, of course, have long been rumored to have avoided dealing with Boras and his higher profile clients whenever possible. Boras, however, foresees no problem working with the Peter Angelos-owned ballclub.
"I wouldn't have any problem negotiating with [Peter Angelos]. We're both attorneys. We've worked together previously and our conversations over the years have always been pretty dynamic. I have never really had an issue with the man. Normally, when I handle negotiations at the major league level, they're with club personnel. Last year, we had a couple arbitration cases and we've always been able to come to an agreement in some manner or form."
The prominent agent feels similarly confident in Orioles' management.
"A couple winters ago, Mike Flanagan and I were up until 5 in the morning at the winter meetings. We have a very good relationship. We have dealt with a lot of players and matters and contracts over the last three or four years. I consider them to be solid baseball people and that's something I value."
This year, Scott Boras will be working under a few conditions for the first time. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement mandates that all players be signed by August 15th or the team loses their rights. Should Wieters be left unsigned at that date, for example, the Orioles would receive the draft pick after the slot they selected him in next year (6th overall). Boras feels that these rules actually hurt the team in negotiations.
"If you're talking about a really talented player, I think these rules work against clubs. In next year's draft, there will be no player like three or four players in this draft available. I would imagine there's going to be good players, but the truth of the matter is, it's not going to be players like in this year's draft. [Teams] may be able to get good picks [through compensation for not signing a player drafted this year], but they're not going to get a player like the one they drafted this year."
The main factor in play, Boras would argue, is that Wieters is a kid who loves to play baseball and is anxious to get his career underway.
"I think any player who's a college player and a high profile player is motivated to get his career underway. Obviously, with all of these players, there's a desire to play, but there's a business aspect that their families have to go through before that takes place. The hope is that these things get done quickly between the team, the player and his family and they move forward."
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com