To say that negotiations between Scott Boras and the Nationals over Stephen Strasburg's first contract were contentious last year is to say the obvious. You might remember Boras arguing that Strasburg deserved more than $50 million up front, the Nationals not budging and negotiations lasting all the way until 11:58 the night before the deadline. (Which, of course, makes Strasburg's comments about Bryce Harper the other day strange). To put it mildly, those were nervous times.
Fast forward one year later, and we're in the same spot once again. This time, it's Harper that has to sign by midnight tonight. Once again, Boras, whose influence was so concerning to Thomas Boswell that Boswell actually suggested the Nationals pass on drafting Strasburg last year, is involved. Deja vu all over again, right?
According to Boswell, not exactly.
Boswell's column today gives you the idea that Boras holds the Nationals in higher regard now than he did at this time last year. There are a number of reasons why. First and foremost, according to Boswell, Boras didn't like former Nationals GM Jim Bowden and did everything he could to push him out and current GM Mike Rizzo in.
Boras, who despised former Nats general manager Jim Bowden, lobbied for Rizzo to replace him in the job, even raising the possibility, according to sources, that Strasburg would not sign with the Nats as long as Bowden was in charge of his minor league development.
Now that Rizzo is in charge, the pair have worked successfully on multiple deals and Boras praises him freely.
One such deal was the Ivan Rodriguez contract. Rizzo gave Pudge more money and years than anyone else is offering, which surely bought him a lot of goodwill with Boras. Finally, Boras is on friendly terms with most of the other members of the Nationals' hierarchy, with the exception of Stan Kasten. All these are potential reasons why the team's negotiations with Harper will go smoother than its negotiations with Strasburg.
But then again ... it's Scott Boras, who always drives a hard bargain for his clients. And while Boswell made some good points, he also dropped in lines like these that make you wonder where he's getting his information.
For example, should the Nats re-sign Adam Dunn? The grapevine says Boras thinks the Nats would be better off with the good-fielding free agent first baseman Carlos Peña of Tampa Bay even though he is hitting .212, is two years older than Dunn and has already shown a pattern of statistical decline. If Dunn isn't re-signed, Peña would be perhaps the most logical replacement. His agent? Boras.
Somehow, I don't think Rizzo held off trading Dunn at the deadline to later replace him with Carlos Pena. Sorry, but that's the kind of "information" that Boras himself would try to sell. Considering Boras himself is the only person quoted on the record in Boswell's piece, you have to wonder if the entire thing is coming from his point of view. Maybe the Nationals do not share the same affection for Boras as Boras shares for them, which would certainly affect the way negotiations with Harper are progressing.
So I can't lie: I'm still a bit concerned about this whole thing. Until Bryce Harper puts his name on the dotted line, I will always be a bit concerned that Scott Boras is involved, no matter how much respect he's supposedly giving the Nationals these days.