Draft Dodger: Scott Boras's Trailblazing History With the MLB Draft

Monday, August 17, 2009

Scott Boras's trailblazing history with the MLB draft:

Brien Taylor 1991

Taylor, a high school left-hander out of North Carolina, was taken first overall by the Yankees, who initially offered a contract in the neighborhood of $300,000. But after Taylor enrolled at a junior college, gaining significant leverage, the Yankees, hours before Taylor was to begin classes, ultimately gave him $1.55 million -- blowing away the previous record for a draft pick. (Postscript: Taylor injured his arm in a bar fight and never appeared in the majors.)

Jason Varitek 1994

Drafted by Minnesota with the 21st overall pick in 1993, Varitek, a junior at Georgia Tech, failed to sign and went back into the draft, where the Mariners picked him 14th overall in 1994. After a contentious negotiation, Boras had Varitek sign with the independent St. Paul (Minn.) Saints, then filed a grievance claiming Varitek -- by virtue of being a professional -- was, by rule, no longer subject to the draft. The process never played out, however, as the Mariners increased their offer from about $400,000 to $650,000, and Varitek agreed to sign.

Bobby Seay et al. 1996

Boras exploited a little-known loophole requiring teams to submit a contract offer within 15 days of the draft to gain free agency for Seay, with three other players following suit. The biggest winner was right-hander Matt White, who turned his free agency into a $10.2 million deal from the Devil Rays -- about six times what he was likely to get as the seventh overall pick. Boras has frequently cited the case as proof the draft artificially suppresses players' value.

J.D. Drew 1997

Drew followed through on the threat made by Varitek, spurning the Phillies, who drafted him second overall, and signing with the independent Saints, with whom he spent a full season. Although Boras failed in his attempt to gain free agency for Drew, the outfielder was drafted fifth overall in 1998 by the Cardinals and signed for $9 million -- about three times what he had been offered by the Phillies.

Landon Powell 2000

Boras advised Powell, a North Carolina high schooler, to get his GED following his junior year, but keep it a secret. Powell was thus eligible for the 2000 draft, but no one knew it, so he went undrafted -- which, by rule, made him a free agent. Although MLB has since altered the eligibility requirements for players with GEDs, highly regarded high school catcher Bryce Harper is expected to use the strategy to gain eligibility in 2010, when he could be the first overall pick.

-- Dave Sheinin (some information obtained from BaseballProspectus.com)

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