Oakland’s Free Agent Misses: Don’t Blame The Park

Here's agent Scott Boras talking to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports about the Oakland Coliseum last month:

"You talk to players.  It's not the city. It's not the team. It's the ballpark. And there are no fans there.  When teams recruit against the Oakland A's, they say, 'Why do you want to play in an empty park?' It's not about the organization. It's not about ownership. It's about locale."

Boras may have a point, but the Athletics' ballpark is not why they lost out on his client Adrian Beltre this winter, nor is it the reason behind the team's failure to sign Lance Berkman and Hisashi Iwakuma.

Beltre was a prime target for Oakland during the 2009-10 offseason, but he turned down a three-year, $24MM offer to take one year and $10MM from the Red Sox.  The A's offer didn't match up with Beltre's goal, which was to be paid well in 2010 and also make a one-year bet on himself and re-enter the market.  That was the right call for him, and this time around the A's topped out at a six-year, $76.8MM offer.  The five-year, $80MM deal Beltre signed with Texas, which also has a vesting option, is a much better contract.  It's not as if Beltre turned down five years and $90MM from Oakland.

Berkman spurned a two-year offer from the A's to take one year from the Cardinals, but signing with them allowed him to remain in the NL Central and play the outfield every day while also making solid money on a make-good one-year pact.  The Coliseum doesn't shoulder the blame here either, as Berkman did not view himself as a full-time DH.  As for Iwakuma, the A's seemed to be in the $4MM a year range while his agent wanted at least twice as much.  That was simply a difference of opinion on salary.  If agent Don Nomura's claim that Oakland's interest in Iwakuma wasn't sincere is true, implying they bid just to block rivals, that's a flaw of the posting system.     

The Coliseum probably does hurt the Athletics' ability to lure free agent hitters.  But in the cases of Beltre and Berkman, it doesn't appear to have been the primary factor.

54 Responses to Oakland’s Free Agent Misses: Don’t Blame The Park Leave a Reply

  1. Even if they can’t get free agents, I still think the A’s will win the AL West this year. No one is going to score on them! They have two dominant pitchers, and two pitchers that cater to the defense behind them for a low ERA. Their offense has improved, and their bullpen is among the best in baseball. Though they aren’t as good as they would if they got Beltre, I think their pitching/ defense combination is among the best in baseball. I personally think that Brett Anderson will win the AL Cy Young award with a HUGE breakout year.

    • I agree..the A’s are loaded and will score plenty of runs. This will be the first time in recent memory that they’ll be able to ride out an injury with their depth..who knows, I may actually watch a game at that hell hole of a park.

      I’m hoping that Wolff will work with Oakland to build an intimate park near the waterfront, or sell.

  2. Boras hates the A’s because they will not overpay for a player like other teams will do. Texas way over paid for Beltre who is a good player but I doubt he will come even close to being the player he was in Boston last year. On the other side look how easy the A’s were able to get pitching to come to Oakland. Harden signed for much less knowing the park will make him a better pitcher for free agency.

    • Pete 4 years ago

      That’s not true, Ben Sheets made $10MM last year, Estaban Loaiza was given 3/21…the A’s will overpay just as any other. As an A’s fan, I am actually happy Boras brought up the stadium issue, which Selig has been dragging his feet on making a decision on for over 5 year now. Give them San Jose already, the Giants don’t need it they play in a downtown tourist hub and will always have good attendance. The A’s need to move there to survive.

      I agree with your point on the Coli being a haven for pitchers though, its the reverse of Texas where crappy players like Gary Mathews Jr look like Willie Mays and lots of established pitchers get shelled.

      • Loaiza was the going rate at the time. The A’s out bid the Giants by 1 million a year for him. When the A’s offered him up for free they found a taker in LA so it wasn’t a over paid contract. Sheets was a big gamble and Beane wanted to flip him but the arm injury was to bad and it was a waste. I would not call either of the 2 contracts as over paying because Sheets was 1 year and Loaiza was a verage pitcher contract at the time.

    • wont overpay players??? oooo john you may need to do some homework before you say that my friend.

      • $1534453 4 years ago

        How many players have they overpaid for in recent years, besides Ben Sheets (for one year)?

        I’m not saying they WON’T overpay for free agents. If they could do it more often, they might. But they simply don’t have the budget to offer 7/$126M to a player like Werth, or compete with a 5/$80M offer to get a player like Beltre. And even if they did have a large budget, they’d be too smart to be reckless with it, and get into a mess like the Mets and Cubs are in.

        • Also, my understanding is that they overpaid for Sheets because the union was starting to pressure frugal teams like the Marlins to spend money. It’s not impossible that Oakland was starting to feel some of the same pressure, and a high-reward (though high-risk) signing like Sheets was the one that made the most sense to Beane with the available talent at the time.

          • Guest 4 years ago

            I definitely wouldn’t rule out pressure from the players’ union. They have held a few team’s feet to the fire, in recent years. But it seemed to me that after Beltre chose Boston’s offer over Oakland’s, the A’s still had close to $15MM left to spend on the 2010 payroll, so they used most of it to take a chance on Sheets, who arguably had the most upside of every remaining FA.

            $10MM was an awfully high bid. But there wasn’t much else they could do with that money, at that point. So they bid really high, in order to not lose out on a fourth 2010 FA target. And I applaud them for doing it, even though he didn’t work out like everyone hoped.

  3. not_brooks 4 years ago


    The Boras quote leads me to believe that Boras/Beltre considered going to Oakland, as the A’s were obviously the highest bidder until Texas jumped in at the end. That quote says to me that Beltre was interested in playing for the A’s, but didn’t want to play in a cavernous ballpark in front of just 10K fans per night.

    Sure, the A’s didn’t offer 5/$90MM, but it wasn’t chump change that the A’s were throwing out, especially considering the fact that Beltre had no other offers at the time.

    And the Berkman bit is just confusing. First Berkman spurned the A’s because he didn’t want to DH, but then, a few paragraphs later, he spurned them to go for the best offer? Was there ever even a whisper of what the A’s offered? How do we know that it wasn’t 2/$12 or even 2/$15?

    And the whole Iwakuma situation was a mess from the start. Nomura’s bargaining tactics were almost juvenile, especially after the A’s balked at his (ridiculous) asking price. Nomura and Iwakuma were the only two people in the world who thought that the pitcher should have got more than something like 4/$20.

    I get that new stories are few and far between at this point, but I must have missed the point of this one, Tim.

    • Pete 4 years ago

      Nomura needs to be banned from being a sports agent. I would have fired him and punched him in the face if I were Iwakuma. Absolutely juvenile.

    • The A’s offer isn’t even close to what the Rangers offered to Beltre. Using the info we have, the Beltre decision was almost entirely about money. The A’s offered less guaranteed money with an extra year…Beltre would have lost a lot of money taking the A’s offer in 2009-10 or this winter. Even the Angels at 5/70 is better than 6/76.8.

      I rewrote the last paragraph to be more clear…you’re right that we don’t know if the A’s proposed something like one year, $9MM to Berkman. Doubt it though. The Berkman situation is not unlike Beltre in 2009-10, where an extra year was not beneficial to the player. But when I said best offer for Beltre, I meant best in terms of position and geography as well, and that was not clear. But that’s not the ballpark.

      I wrote this post because I get the sense that some people think the A’s are consistently putting out the best offers and being spurned for less because of where they play. I saw no evidence of that this winter.

  4. Ask that question to Adrian Gonzalez coming away from Petco. Obviously he’s not a FA. However, good luck with San Diego trying to resign any significant power hitters, or attract any significant FA’s of the power hitting variety ever, with the extreme pitching confines of Petco park.

  5. Pete 4 years ago

    Iwakuma’s agent wanted “Barry Zito money” not $8MM a year. Absolutely ridiculous and whoever Iwakuma’s agent is should be kicked out of pro sports as he is an insult to his profession. There is absolutely no reason why Iwakuma shouldnt be wearing A’s colors right now. His imbecile agent is seriously the only reason why not. He literally wanted $100MM for Iwakuma.

    • Guest 4 years ago

      Nomura probably did the A’s a favor, in my opinion. I was intrigued by the idea of them getting Iwakuma (and the A’s certainly have excellent pitching scouts). But I was never confident that he would have been worth $8.775MM a year, which is essentially what he would have cost, had they settled on a 4/$16MM contract.

    • The agent works for the player. If the player wants Barry Zito money, it’s the agent’s job to try and get what he wants, even if it’s an impossible task.

      Of course Iwakuma wanted Zito money. He’s a year away from being a pure free agent and it would’ve taken a ridiculous amount of money to give up that freedom. He wasn’t going to see one penny of the posting fee and had two options: sign for below market value with only one team or stay in Japan for another year and then let himself be courted by multiple teams and consider multiple offers.

      Blame Iwakuma, if you’re going to blame anybody. The agent didn’t do anything other than what his client asked him to do.

  6. Ben Brown 4 years ago

    Boras is just trying to help push the peanut for a new stadium ==> increased revenue ==> increased free agent bidding ==> increased player salaries ==> increased agent salaries.

    Tim, have you ever been to the Coliseum in Oakland? I’ve been to more than half of the major league parks, and it is the worst place to watch (and I would assume play) the game by a considerable margin. That said, I still love my A’s!!

    • jpshark 4 years ago

      On top of this the clubhouse and player facilities within the ballpark are very, very sub-standard. You can’t blame just the ballpark for Oakland’s problems luring free agents, but it is certainly the main issue regardless of how writers want to spin it. It doesn’t take a rocket scientest to see that the A’s have a pretty good team going into 2011, and certainly free agents saw the same thing so you can’t say they don’t get players because of not fielding a good team.

      • If you’re gonna blame the park in any way as some kind of deciding factor, you have to show many instances where the A’s made the clear best offer in terms of money, years, position preference and were turned down.

    • Pete 4 years ago

      Its funny because up until 1994 when the Raiders moved back the Coliseum was considered one of the prettiest parks in MLB. Al Davis ruined baseball in Oakland.

      • Carl Elftman 4 years ago

        i agree its mt davis that screwed the park – but they need a new place now with the team coming up

  7. The real issue is attendance. The A’s simply cant compete with the Giants in the bay area market with the difference in ballparks. If The A’s had a brand new yard like SF they undoubtedly would have the revenue from attendance to either sign players, or keep them. I think the most glaring example is Barry Zito. The guy jumped teams where on a clear day you can see one stadium from the other. The determining factor was that Oakland flat out couldnt offer Zito the money SF did. So while your saying players arent spurning The A’s because of the ballpark, the ballpark has been a crutch in signing top free agents because the fans simply dont want to go to games there. Its only fair that SF gets off their high horse and waives the territorial rights in San Jose. Selig needs to step in. This wouldnt only be good for the A’s. it would be good for the bay area and even more so good for baseball.

    • As an A’s fan I’m glad they didn’t offer Zito as much as SF did.

      Zito beating Santana in the ALDS was great and all but the declining fastball when it wasn’t all that great to begin with wasn’t worth paying for the CY Young he earned earlier in his career.

      • Guest 4 years ago

        I agree. Even if the A’s had a $120MM annual payroll, I would have hated to see them pay anywhere near 9 figures to keep him (even at the time).

    • Carl Elftman 4 years ago

      the giants need give them back San Jose back: because the A’s turned over rights back in the 80’s so the giants would not move to Tampa Bay. The A’s believed in sharing with the giants, but not the giants!

    • Biggs 4 years ago

      Let’s note that when Zito was in Oakland, the A’s were getting about 25,000 a game and would see out all games against competitive teams. The recent drop in attendence, presumably, is due to high parking fees and rising ticket prices, combined with a drop in quality of play (compaired to mid-2000s). Not to mention, lack of $1 Wednesdays..

    • HAIRSvsSQUARES 4 years ago

      The A’s season ticket sales are up 50 percent compared to this time last year.

  8. woodmember 4 years ago

    This is why I love this site. As an A’s fan, it’s difficult to find well written articles about my team sometimes. This site seems to touch on all teams (not just the Yankees, like they do on ESPN) and often delves into issues that even small market teams have. Great site, and keep up the good work!

  9. Tim, you cite examples of rejected contract offers. But isn’t it very possible that some teams won’t even consider an A’s offer in the first place, because of the stadium? Perhaps Boras had that in mind when he said what he said.

    • Sure, but we have to operate based on what we do know. And at least this winter I am not seeing with Beltre or Berkman where the A’s made a clear best offer and were turned down.

  10. $1534453 4 years ago


    No reasonable person would dispute Beltre’s decisions to turn them down two years in a row. And I doubt many would dispute Berkman’s decision (even though they reportedly offered him 2/$16MM), since he wanted to stay in the field really badly, got to stay closer to home, and is probably hoping to re-establish himself on a one-year deal and hit the open market again.

    But what about Marco Scutaro taking $4M less guaranteed to go to Boston? And Rafael Furcal taking $8M less guaranteed to go to LA? And even Jamey Carroll?

    Furcal does have that 2012 club/vesting option with LA. But it’s far from a given to vest, or be exercised. So you’d think he may have preferred the extra year of security the A’s offered, in case his back problems came back to haunt him. And the A’s were in a position to offer Jamey Carroll a lot more playing time than LA was when the two teams were pursuing him.

    They all MIGHT have had other reasons than the Coliseum to sign elsewhere. But the more this happens, the less it seems like happenstance. And we can’t overlook the growing number of players who we’re learning to have Oakland on their no-trade lists. Justin Upton has them listed as one of just four teams he would block a trade to. And Chone Figgins has made it clear that he won’t accept a trade to Oakland, even though it seems clear to most people that the A’s are more likely to contend over the next couple seasons than the Mariners are.

    • I don’t dispute those previous examples. I just wanted to focus on this offseason and explain how it’s not the same old ballpark excuse here.

      Don’t get me wrong, though, the park and location probably is preventing them from getting the attendance needed to actually make the biggest offers consistently to top FAs.

  11. Jason Champion 4 years ago

    It would be an outright shame to see the Athletics move to any other city.

    MLB needs to get this thing done.

  12. InvalidUserID 4 years ago

    Honestly, there is nothing wrong with the franchise or it’s fans. I’ve been to a dozen games over the past few years as a fan of the opponent and have never caught grief from A’s fans. The fans that do show up are very knowledgeable and there is a family atmosphere. The problem is that there aren’t enough of the fans there, as pointed out by Boras. As a visitor, it is disappointing to see completely empty sections.

    As a stadium, McAfee or whatever it’s called these days is a big ugly concrete monster with no appeal or personality. Besides that, it’s in Oakland. For the sake of the franchise, I hope they do get to move to San Jose with a new stadium that brings in better revenue and more fans.

    • Guest 4 years ago

      Thank you for saying what you did about the fans. All too often do people tend to pick out the worst fans, and try to use them as an example of what a teams fans are like in general. And you’ve done the exact opposite by pointing out that the vast majority are nice, knowledgeable people.

      I personally don’t have a preference as to what city they build the new stadium in. I just hope something gets approved by no later than October, because the current stadium is killing the team. I’m a little surprised that Wolff and Fisher are even letting Beane and Forst spend close to $70MM on payroll right now, given how low attendance has been over the last 5 years. I thought it might drop closer to $50MM this year.

  13. Guest 4 years ago

    Why was Iwakuma’s name even brought up in this article?? The Coliseum IS a big problem for the A’s. But not once have I ever heard someone try to say that Iwakuma wouldn’t sign because of the stadium. Everyone knows it was because his agent was demanding more money than anyone ever thought he was worth.

    • I’ve seen him lumped in with the A’s free agent misses – “No one will take the A’s money!”

      • Guest 4 years ago

        Could you post any links showing where people have lumped Iwakuma in with Beltre, Berkman, Dunn, Scutaro, Carroll, Furcal, Johnson, Reyes, etc?

        I spend a lot of time on forums/comment boards of high-traffic A’s sites. And I’ve also read every article/blog that Susan Slusser, Jane Lee, Mychael Urban and Joe Stiglich (the A’s beat writers) have posted online since the offseason began. And not once have I ever seen anyone try to lump Iwakuma in with all the players that Oakland has missed out on in the last three years.

        I love your site, Tim! And I always respect your opinions, even when I might disagree with them. You always come off as fair and objective. But in Iwakuma’s case, it seems like you might be debating a point that most A’s fans shared in the first place. And I fear that you could unintentionally be making A’s fans, in general, look bad.

        Just some food for thought :)

  14. tomymogo 4 years ago

    Will the A’s ever build a new stadium? The Marlins are already building a new stadium, the Rays and the A’s are the only teams with horrible stadiums.

    • slider32 4 years ago

      I agree, something has to be done with these teams, their attendence is poor and their parks are horrible. It is a shame with two teams doing so well on the field.

      • Dick Armada 4 years ago

        I bet whichever of the two NFL stadium propositions in LA fails will create a baseball stadium for a 5th AL West team before the A’s get a new stadium.

    • Guest 4 years ago

      Back in ’06 and ’07, it seemed pretty close to a done deal that the A’s would have a new stadium in Fremont in 2012. But that has since fell apart. And now the commissioner’s office is taking their sweet time in approving a move to San Jose, since SF is refusing to give up their SJ territorial rights, which were magnanimously surrendered to them by the A’s, in the first place, back in the 90’s.

      They definitely want a new stadium. And have for many years. But it’s much easier said than built. It doesn’t appear that the city of Oakland is willing to help fund it (and I don’t blame them). And it’s no guarantee that SJ would do that, either (and I hope they wouldn’t).

      I sincerely hope they get the San Francisco treatment, and have to front the majority of the bill themselves, even if it means their payroll won’t immediately increase. I love my A’s. But I don’t love them enough to see California go even further into debt.

  15. dubthebeachcomber 4 years ago

    Oakland fans will come out for a winner. I have attended A’s games off and on since the late seventies. I have seen empty stadiums and sold out stadiums. It all depends on the team on the field. One of my best baseball experiences is when I attended a double header with the Yankees. Since I’d just come back to town, I did not realize that this was the first game that A’s new skipper, Billy Martin, would be facing the Yanks. It was sold out and a great day. A’s swept, and this day was the beginning of “Billy Ball.” Oakland fans can be among the best, as they have proven in several different eras. The Coliseum has the easiest access in all of baseball. Bart ( the subway) has a dedicated stop for the park. The team just needs to bring the fans another winner.

    • TheWoodyD 4 years ago

      The A’s could also help themselves out by promoting the franchise more often. They have one of the best franchise histories in the MLB, but they never celebrate it. Maybe they want to distance themselves from the memories of McGwire and Canseco, but one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever experienced at a game was when they honored Rickey for getting into the Hall.

  16. northsfbay 4 years ago

    The A’s can’t get free agents because players don’t like playing cold weather, low attendance, sharing with football team, a lot of foul territory. The Coliseum is an old, ugly multi-purpose stadium. They are close to building BART to San Jose and they can have shuttle bus service to the Stadium, just like you can the trolley from BART to AT&T. San Jose A’s is better than no A’s.

    • Guest 4 years ago

      Totally agree. Dierkes is wrong. Don’t always like Boras’ methods when it comes to marketing his FAs, but, in this case, I have to agree with him.

  17. MaineluvstheSox 4 years ago

    Boras could sell bridges to these owners. I want him on my side when I’m talking to St. Peter.

  18. Carl Elftman 4 years ago

    Build a new stadium it is time and the players will come!

  19. Guest 4 years ago

    As lifetime fan of a team that just moved from one of the worst stadiums in the league into a state-of-the-art one, I can only imagine how difficult this must be for die-hard A’s fans. Target Field has completely changed the complexion of the Twins’ future for the next 30 years . . . A’s need/deserve a new stadium . . . Also, we should go back to two divisions and revive the Oakland/Minnesota rivalry from the late 80s. Throwing Twinkies at Tony LaRussa is a great memory :-)

    • Guest 4 years ago

      I’m with you on going back to four divisions! Division winners get the top seeds, and the next two teams with the best records get in as Wild Cards, regardless of division. I’d love it!

      I wish I could be confident that a new A’s stadium would mean a $30MM boost in annual payroll like it did for Minnesota, though. But I believe it was easier for the Twins because county taxpayers are footing 2/3 of the stadium bill. And Fisher and Wolff may have to foot the entire bill, themselves, if they ever hope to get something built by 2015 (which I’m all for, by the way; I’d hate it if part of the bill was passed off on CA taxpayers, even though I don’t live there anymore).

  20. $1534453 4 years ago

    Did they not aggressively pursue Beltre and Berkman? And did they not acquire DeJesus, Matsui and Willingham (plus inquire on Figgins)?

    You’re trying to make it sound as if they did nothing but go after pitching this winter. And that could not be further from the truth.

  21. sportsfan07 4 years ago

    The reason for that is because the plan at the time was to build up a surplus of something everyone wants (starting pitchers) so that they could have leverage and try to trade one of them. Obviously that didn’t work out but who cares the A’s ended up with a very good team and a bunch of solid hitters anyways.

  22. Guest 4 years ago

    Is there supposed to be some kind of point to this post? Or is it just a lazy attempt to take a cheap shot at a team that you’re obsessed with hating?

  23. bomberj11 4 years ago

    Pretty good?

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