On the substance of the Peter Gammons report that Scott Boras is seeking a 6-year, $50 million contract for his client Stephen Strasburg, my take is more or less the same as NFA's assessment here.
The key points as far as I'm concerned are a) Boras is just doing his job, and his job is to be a badass mo-fo in the negotiations and squeeze every owner he can for every dime he can, and b) ballplayers are entitled to a badass mo-fo negotiating on their behalf, and you would want one too if you were in their place.
But here's one other important point I would add. The main reason why Boras has leverage to make such demands is because Strasburg just so happens to be the most highly regarded prospect in years, and his market value (if he were allowed to put his talent on the free market) would far, far exceed 6 years and $50 million.
But there's another reason why he has Kasten by the balls. Stan, in a fit of pique last summer, decided that he was willing to harm his team on the field and cost his franchise money in order to get the short-term gratification of telling an agent to fuck off. Boras, like a good negotiator, is doing it by the book: starting with a high asking price, trying to limit the number of extraneous issues are on the table, etc. Stan on the other hand broke the first rule on the first page of the Negotiations 101 manual: don't get emotional.
Stan's made it clear that he hates agents, doesn't think they exist, and if you read between the lines it's clear that he still considers it illegitimate that the reserve clause was ever done away with. He refused to go one dime over $3.3 million, despite the fact that Crow's bonus demands were the only reason he fell to us at 9 in the first place, despite the fact that the player was clearly willing to play independent league ball and take his chances next year, that Justin Smoak got $3.5 million at 11, that another $700k would have gotten him in the fold, that the Nationals have one of the weakest farm systems in baseball and desperately need to be building, not squandering what little fan interest remains... It must have been quite a high to tell the Hendricks brothers where to go at midnight, but the hangover was a doozy, and it's still there.
After the Crow debacle, the team's reputation has sunk to new lows. The bad PR comes on top of SmileyGate, the 102 losses, all the Jim stuff, Chad Cordero... As Stan said when Jim was shoved out the door, fans and the media aren't paying any attention to the 'good' things happening with the team. It's killing the value of his product. Ratings are laughable. Attendance was as bad as it could be for a new stadium, and the team has to be really holding its breath on this year. And any analyst will tell you that we're at least 2-3 years away from a winner. What would it mean to the team's bottom line if they blew the Strasburg signing? Given how badly the team's reputation has been damaged already, they'd get zero benefit of the doubt from anyone. They'd officially become the L.A. Clippers / Detroit Lions of MLB (if they aren't already).
Whoever we draft with the 10th pick will also have an unusually high degree of leverage over the team, because if we don't sign him there's no third bite at the apple--we just lose that Aaron Crow pick and the reward for sitting through the 2007 Washington Nationals is bupkis.
Today of course, Stan came out calling the Boras demands silly. But what's silly is Kasten's continued insistence on players accepting the "slot" bonus system that the owners unilaterally created out of thin air and that no player or player representative has ever regarded as legitimate whatsoever. Today, Kasten again tossed out "slot" as his expectation for signing Strasburg, which is funny, if you're not one of the poor saps saddled with a masochistic impulse to follow this team. This from the Post:
Kasten also stood firm in discussing the Nationals' negotiating position toward their top overall draft pick ("whomever it may be," he said), implying the team was not interested in blowing up the established signing-bonus framework for anyone.Come again? In what way is the slot system 'established'? When in any CBA have the players ever agreed to a system that limited draftees from negotiating bonuses? At this point last year I would have dismissed this kind of talk as empty bluffing. Now though you have to assume that Stan's serious and that he just might be willing to cost his team still more millions to make is quixotic point that when he says "jump, boy" that players are supposed to say, "how high?"
"A hundred years of baseball and four decades of collective bargaining have shown how you develop players and how they proceed through the system," Kasten said.
In Strasburg's case though, Stan's barking is toothless. Boras has just begun to squeeze. Just wait till he starts to twist and pull.