Boras Blast From The Past: Maddux Accepts Arbitration

Nearly three years have passed since I did an entry in the Boras Blast From The Past series, but Ryan Madson's surprising one-year, $8.5MM contract yesterday with the Reds got me thinking about whether agent Scott Boras had previously settled for a one-year contract for a top client in his prime coming off a strong season.  Madson is clearly at the top of his game, as a durable 31-year-old reliever who posted a 2.37 ERA, 32 save season.  So far I haven't found a similar situation with Boras, although the story of Greg Maddux accepting arbitration as a free agent in 2002 is an interesting one.

At age 36, Maddux hadn't won a Cy Young award in a while, but he was still very good.  In 2002 the Professor posted a 2.62 ERA, second in the National League behind Randy Johnson.  Teammate Tom Glavine, who is a few weeks older than Maddux, finished third in NL ERA and signed a three-year, $35MM deal with the Mets in early December 2002.  Later that month, Maddux made the surprising decision to accept arbitration, the equivalent of a one-year deal for 2003.

According to Murray Chass of the New York Times, Boras explained the decision by saying, "At this point in time it was a choice of venue for him.  He had multiple offers, but he really wanted to have another crack at it in Atlanta. He's confident he's going to be pitching for a long, long time and he's very durable, so working on a one-year contract won't bother him. He has some goals that he has not yet achieved in Atlanta that he wants to resolve."  According to the AP, Boras said "many clubs at the ownership level were interested" in Maddux, adding, "At this point in time, at least for this year, they wanted to return to Atlanta and give it one more shot of winning there."  Boras' choice of "they" rather than "we" leads me to believe the decision came more from the client than the agent.  After all, Boras is known for pulling rabbits out of his hat in January (Madson notwithstanding).

Despite Boras' claims, it seems possible that Maddux's market was limited.  The AP article said no other teams publicly talked about pursuing him.  Part of the problem was the recent collective bargaining agreement, which added a 175% luxury tax on the portion of teams' payrolls over $117MM in 2003.  According to SI's Tom Verducci in November of 2002, "Most teams are expected to treat the luxury-tax threshold as a de facto salary cap," and teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, and Red Sox were anxious to avoid it.  It also appears Boras came out of the gate aggressively for Maddux, seeking a five-year deal according to Verducci.

The Braves had already planned for life without Maddux and Glavine, having acquired Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton and signed Paul Byrd.  Maddux's decision to accept arbitration busted the Braves' budget, so the team immediately traded Kevin Millwood to the rival Phillies for Johnny Estrada.  GM John Schuerholz said, "We had no choice but to move payroll."  Seven years later, a similar situation occurred with the Braves when reliever Rafael Soriano accepted arbitration and had to be traded due to payroll constraints.  Soriano did not become a Boras client until several months later. 

Maddux seemed headed for a hearing to determine his 2003 salary, but a few days prior he split the difference between his and the team's arbitration submissions, agreeing to a $14.75MM salary.  It was the largest one-year contract in baseball history.  Though Maddux led the NL in walk rate in '03, he posted his highest ERA since 1987 in his final and most expensive season with the Braves.

18 Responses to Boras Blast From The Past: Maddux Accepts Arbitration Leave a Reply

  1. AFCFAN06 4 years ago

    Is Madsons deal just a flatt out 1 yeardeal or did he get some options just curious great sign for Reds

    • Gunner65 4 years ago

      Fay said there is a team option whose details are still being finalized. Once that and the passed physical are done, they will officially announce the deal 

  2. jbryant93 4 years ago

    Beltre was an example.

    • I forgot to mention initially that I was looking for Boras clients coming off strong seasons, so that would rule out Beltre.

      • jbryant93 4 years ago

        Beltre had a down 2009 offensively, but still rec’d several multi year offers based on his 2009 defensive metrics and prior offense. Madson had only 1 year as closer so Boras couldn’t really showcase him as an “elite” closer. I would guess one more year as closer could change that as he re-enters the market.

        Also worth mentioning is the Reds could actually get a draft pick for Madson, if the Reds offer the approx 12M figure req’d under the new collective bargaining agreement. Boras’ intentions are most likely to decline that offer in search of a new multi-year. Hard to see how this is not a tremendous deal for Reds.

        • That’s true, but I think it’s fair to say Beltre was coming off a lousy year by his standards and Madson a good one.

          Have to see the circumstances of the reported option year on Madson.

  3. daveineg 4 years ago

    Have to wonder if Boras is re-thinking his decision not to accept arbitration from the Brewers for Fielder. 

    Nationals apparently are smart enough not to bid against themselves and Boras can’t fake interest from elsewhere.

    • TheHotCorner 4 years ago

      I wonder if Boras is really waiting on the Rangers to see if they can work out a deal with Darvish.  If they can’t then I could see the possibility of the Rangers interest in Fielder increasing. That might be his only chance to stir up a bidding war.

  4. That Enrico Palazzo 4 years ago

    Kyle Loshe was more along the lines of what Madson has done.  He saw the market, took a 1 year, below market value contract, and pitched his way to a lucrative extension. 

  5. danumd87 4 years ago

    Wasn’t Jeff weaver’s situation similar?

  6. MadmanTX 4 years ago

    Kind of shocked at the Madson deal for one year. I understand that Madson can try again next season, but doesn’t he take a big chance on posting bad numbers or getting hurt? I wonder if this signals that Boras might now accept a small number of years on Fielder, which would make him more appealing to teams that only want a 5-7 year deal?

  7. BaseballWizard 4 years ago

    The other way that this situation is different is the strong evidence (multiple reports) of a four-year, $44 Million offer from the Phillies.  If this is true, getting a lower AAV on a one-year deal means Boras screwed up.

    • 0bsessions 4 years ago

      The multiple reports, however, all go on to say that Boras was ready to accept said deal, but that Phillies ownership nixed it.

      In either case, Boras didn’t do anything accept as there isn’t a single report indicating he turned down such an offer.

  8. NYBravosFan10 4 years ago

    This is something not alot of people know when bashing the Braves about how they don’t know how to handle Scott Boras. Boras represented two of our most important players within the past 20 years in Maddux and Andruw Jones and I think we handled them pretty well, only losing them when we didn’t see them as usefull (for lack of a better word).

    • coreybishop 4 years ago

      And don’t forget, we would have had Alex Rodriguez had we not been bid out by the Rangers in 2001.

      • migueljablonski 4 years ago

        Also don’t forget, we would have had Bonds instead of Maddux if he hadn’t signed with the Giants

    • jbryant93 4 years ago

      Braves got burned on Lowe though.

  9. Mike1L 4 years ago

    Likely we will never know what really happened in Philly and why that deal was a no-deal. It’s possible they thought Papelbon was a better value, even if more expensive.   I see the connection to Maddux, but think it falls short.  Maddux knew he’s win a big contract in arbitration.  This appears to be quite good for Cincy.  And, for a relief pitcher/closer, like Madson, it’s a very considerable risk.  It only takes a handful of bad outings to kill your stats.  I guess we will see.

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