What roles do MLB agents play in today’s game?


MLB agents are getting quite the notorious reputation in baseball circles lately.

There is a lot of discussion recently on the demotion of Cubs prospect Kris Bryant.  More specifically, the manner in which his agent, Scott Boras, has interjected himself in the proceedings.  Boras is one of baseball’s top agents and certainly one of the most vocal in the business.  While there are numerous agencies out there, the Scott Boras Agency is one that is high profile and, without question, tries to influence the sport with their own interests.

Bryant has been demoted to Triple-A this week which once again brings into question the way prospects are handled. Pittsburgh Pirates fans can relate to this from the past few years while having to wait for Starling MarteGerrit Cole and Gregory Polanco arrival to maximize their “super two” status.  For the Cubs, they will not wait as long to clear this hurdle, but they will hold him down for 2-3 weeks, as they should, being that the benefit for the club is an extra year of player control.

The Pirates, along with many other teams, will tow the company line of saying that when the player is ready to come up and contribute, they will be called up.  Isn’t it amazing how they always to be ready by mid-June?  Of course, Agents want the best for their clients, as baseball is a very demanding game. Few players are special enough to make it to the big leagues for long careers, and that can muddy the waters of the agent’s approach to a particular player.  Also, consider that these players only have a short amount of time in their life to play the game, as not all players can make it to the age of 40.

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Let’s say a typical player reaches the big leagues for the first time at the age of 24.  Based on the current arbitation-based system, it takes an MLB player seven years to achieve true free-agency.  Simple math says that this 24 year old will be available for free agency at roughly the age of 31.  Players start to hit their down turn of careers around the age of 34 which means they generally will have 1 opportunity for a payday that will last them the rest of their lives.

The players are not generally the captains of their ship while playing because it is the agents who are making sure the players are being taken care of financially.  Some agents are more aggressive than others and Scott Boras is certainly one of the most aggressive.  Does this make him a bad guy?  Of course not, he is doing the job his players are paying him to do.

Can an agent truly impact the way Major League Baseball teams conduct their business?  In a word, absolutely!

Most agents negotiate their commission based upon the players status but, generally speaking, an agency will receive 10-15% of a players salary per year.  Let’s do some simple math, if a player is making $10M for the 2015 season, at 10% commission, the agency will make $1M for that same year.  While that sounds like a high number, you must remember that most agents work for an agency and it’s generally that agency that gets the percentage while earning a salary plus bonus, in addition to any possible commissions.  The agency also has a huge infrastructure of employees to support.

The players are not generally the captains of their ship while playing because it’s the agents who are making sure the players are being taken care of financially and having the opportunities for the best they can get.

Scott Boras is one of the most influential and outspoken agents in the game and when he becomes unhappy about something, it’s a good chance that something will change.  With Bryant being demoted to Triple A for a few weeks and Boras becoming quite outspoken on the subject, I would suspect that MLB and the MLBPA will now hold discussions and make changes in the next CBA.  It is possible that MLB will get rid of the extra year of control or they could change it to a flat 7 years from the first minute they enter the league, no matter if at the beginning, middle or September call up.

If I were looking at the way MLB handles prospects, this is very close to what I would want to have happen:  Allow players to be controlled by their team for 7 years, with the final 3 being arbitration years that will allow them to make money more based upon their performance compared to being locked in to a beginning contract.  This would cover any and all players that would be called up at any point and time in the season while gaining X amount of days in the big leagues.  The number would be pretty small but basically, if a player gets called up in September, their years of control do not start but they still are not eligible for the post-season.

If a team wants a player to be eligible for the post-season, they MUST be counted as having 1 year of control used.  This would be regardless if they came up at the beginning of the year or August 31st.  If they are eligible for the playoffs, they are giving up the 1st year of control.  It’s a great way to simplify the system while taking away the guess work of when a player is able to be controlled for an extra year and I would eliminate Super Two status altogether.

Sometimes, I think that all of MLB, the MLBPA and MLB agents can make things too complex and if they simplified a few things, the system would work a little bit better.

Next: It was a lock for Locke to make the rotation all along