O's, Boras: done deals

The Baltimore Sun

For nearly a dozen years, baseball agent Scott Boras and Orioles principal owner Peter Angelos ignored each other as much as possible.

Oh, they'll say on the record it was nothing personal.

As Boras once quipped, they are both attorneys and both of Greek heritage, so how could they not have a mutual respect?

They're just a pair of busy, hardworking stiffs who simply never found the time to break pita together.

At least until last week - when the club and Boras consummated two deals in the time it normally takes the Orioles and New York Yankees to play a game.

On Wednesday evening, the club signed fifth-round pick Jacob Arrieta to a $1.1 million bonus. Then, with 10 minutes remaining before the midnight signing deadline, the Orioles agreed to a $6 million bonus with their first-rounder, Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters.

Does this development mean that baseball's most successful agent and perhaps its most intelligent owner are about to renew a tenuous relationship that fully ruptured during the contentious Ben McDonald arbitration case and contract negotiations in 1995 and 1996?

Does it mean Angelos may end up as a Boras guy, like Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks is perceived?

Don't get carried away. Don't expect Angelos to turn over his checkbook to Boras this winter so Andruw Jones and Alex Rodriguez can fist-bump for 81 games at Camden Yards in 2008. Not going to happen.

Still, last week was an interesting chapter in club history. Since Angelos took over in 1993, the Orioles had not drafted a Boras client in the first round.

"That may be because of matchups, I don't know," Boras said earlier in the week.

Or maybe it's because, for years, Boras and Angelos have sat on opposite aisles in the Reformed Church of Baseball.

Angelos continually preaches financial prudence, to pay a player what he perceives is fair value but not more. In this day of preposterously escalating salaries, however, Angelos often is left screaming into the wind as his fellow owners offer eight-figure annual salaries to, at least in his perception, mediocre players.

That said, Angelos has approved his own share of ill-advised contracts over the years, but none, with the exception of Albert Belle's, was extraordinary in total value.

Boras, in contrast, is religious in his belief that as baseball's attendance, TV contracts and revenues continue to soar, the players' compensation should keep pace. So he continually sets salary records for his clients, many of whom are the sport's best.

Those players, in case you haven't noticed, haven't come to Baltimore. The last Boras free agent to sign a multi-year deal here was David Segui, who scored $28 million in 2000 and then, because of injuries, played 193 games in four seasons.

Boras said he hasn't steered his top-tier clients away from Baltimore, it's just that they want to go to a winner, and the Orioles have shown a reluctance to pay above the going rate to get them to Camden Yards.

"Baltimore usually falls into a [category] where players want to know whether they are going to win and what the commitment is from the owner," Boras said. "And so with free agency, that becomes a little more difficult. But certainly when players come to me and mention Baltimore, we call them and have dialogue with them and go from there."

Signing Wieters is a step toward the Boras direction, but there's a difference between giving a college kid $6 million and veteran pitcher Barry Zito $126 million.

It's also important not to mischaracterize what happened during the Wieters negotiations last week. It's not as if Angelos and Boras sat at a table and engaged in a staring contest, with Angelos holding a $6 million check and Boras a sign that said, "$11 million or Georgia Tech."

In reality, Boras and Angelos didn't talk Wednesday. That's the way it has been since the process began in June. Intermediaries handled the negotiations.

Before selecting Wieters, Orioles officials briefed Angelos on what a potential deal would cost, and he granted permission to pursue it. That was an essential development since Boras didn't want the club to draft Wieters if Angelos weren't fully on board.

The next two months were a textbook course in classic Boras negotiations, according to several major league executives. The agent arrived at a figure around $11 million, which he said was fair based on the contract Georgia Tech switch-hitter Mark Teixeira received six years ago. Boras then held firm as weeks, days, hours and then only minutes remained before the deadline.

On Wednesday, Angelos gave club president Andy MacPhail, who was the one making the phone calls, permission to increase the offer from roughly $5.2 million to $6 million. And with direction from the Wieters family, Boras finally dropped the demands by $5 million.

Yet, when the agreement was in place, Boras still achieved a landmark deal - the largest amateur contract in Orioles history.

The advisee - now agent - brokered a significant signing bonus, the Orioles acquired a top prospect and the perception that Boras and Angelos' team couldn't work together on anything more significant than Corey Patterson's arbitration case has been put to rest.

It certainly is a refreshing development. Call it a breakthrough if you like.

But keep perspective. The Orioles won't be wearing "Team Boras" on their road jerseys anytime soon.

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