Mets first baseman Ike Davis bashed a career-best 32 home runs in 2012. Today I spoke with him about his relationship with his agent, Lou Jon Nero of Octagon.
On his first agent:
The first guy we ever met was Gregg Clifton, he was with Octagon at the time. My dad [former MLB pitcher Ron Davis] knew Clifton and he was like "Alright, whatever, we'll try you out for a little while." It wasn't like they could do much then because it was advisors. I hadn't been drafted or played my senior season yet. I started talking to him for a little bit, and personality-wise it wasn't a great fit. Before the season I met Lou Jon and we put him through the grinder a couple of times, made him come to the house for three or four dinners, and had dad question him. I was there, and I obviously didn't know much about what you're looking for at that time, being so young. It was just a personality test to make sure you're with good people. We don't like slimy people in the Davis family. He passed the test with flying colors, and we told him we'd like him to represent us, and I've been with him almost ten years.
On Octagon's acquisition of the baseball divisions of CSMG in 2008:
They were CSMG back in the day, when I first met them. CSMG said they were selling basketball and football, and our whole baseball office is going to Octagon.
Was that acquisition a concern?
Not really, because you don't go for the company. You go for the agent, the guy that is representing you. Companies will have four or five different agents and you have to find the one that you can communicate with, that understands what makes you tick and what to do and how to do things to keep you at your best level of play.
On how he decided he clicked with Lou Jon:
We spent a lot of time together. He's a young guy, he's not old school. He never made me feel like I didn't know what I was talking about. He never made me feel like I was inferior. He's kind of hip. He's around my age, and we like the same stuff. He's really up-to-date with technology, he's on top of all the things that I'm not always on top of. He's fun to hang out with, he's very family-oriented which I like. He doesn't have slicked-back hair, nice suits, a $100,000 watch -- he's homey, kind of like I am. I don't like the shiny look on the agents, it's kind of freaky.
On considering signing when he was drafted out of high school by the Devil Rays in 2005:
It was about money, and what it would take to not go to college. Lou Jon basically said, "You're not going to go unless it's over a million dollars." At that time I was like, "You're crazy man, $700,000 is a lot of money." He said, "Don't worry about it, you're going to get money, you'll be in a better position." I got drafted, and I think the most they could probably come up with was maybe half a million or something like that. It was a lot of money to turn down at 18, but Lou said, "Don't worry, you've got three years of being in Tempe, Arizona [at Arizona State University], three years of the best time of your life, and you'll be drafted way higher when you're done. It's a win-win for you." He was letting me know, "Everything's fine dude, you're going to be great." He always had the right path in mind for me, which is really cool.
On the 2008 draft, in which he was taken 18th overall by the Mets:
That's actually pretty crazy, because the draft's a weird thing. The teams don't really know, the agents really can't tell you much unless you're the first or second pick. When you're after the first five or six picks, it's kind of like, "Who knows." One team might have you fourth on the board, one might have you 19th. It's different. I knew that I was going to get drafted in the top two rounds, didn't know yet if it was going to be by the Dodgers, who wanted me to pitch, or a team that wanted me to hit. Basically what I told every team was if you draft me, I was going to sign. I was like, "I'm going to sign if you draft me, so draft me."
Did that hurt your leverage?
No...one thing I like about Lou Jon is that we know what we're worth and what we're not. We're not trying to get crazy money out of people. You know that when you're drafted 19th you're not going to get $8MM. We know where we stand. We don't make people upset and we don't get upset because we're not asking for an unfair amount of money. The slot was like $1.4MM and I ended up getting $1.575MM. If Lou Jon was throwing out $3MM, then things might not happen. I probably wouldn't get drafted in the first 20 picks.
On what an agent does after a draft pick signs:
Off-the-field stuff like card signings and deals with equipment, and how not to get trapped into long-term deals with equipment when you could make the big leagues in a year, and you're in a three-year Nike deal, or a three-year deal with anybody, and instead of making that $10-12K a year, you're still making $500 a year. Say you're in the minor leagues and you really want to be with Under Armour, and they're like, "We'll give you all your cleats and we'll give you $500 in merchandise a year, but here, sign this five or six-year deal." You sign the deal and in a year and a half you're in the big leagues in New York, and you're this up-and-coming rookie that's making a big splash, you're going to have a chance to make over $20K a year instead of being on that $500 deal.
On his involvement in negotiations for his first-year arbitration salary in 2013:
I was pretty involved. My agency had come up with a booklet the size of the Yellow Pages, with all different players that were similar that I could be compared to. It's more for knowledge of why we think I should get the money. We came up with a number together, looking at all the people that have gone before me, this is the number that should be fair for a first year of arbitration. We said this number we're going with, we're not going any less, period. If they want to go less, then we go to arbitration. The biggest thing is sticking to your guns. We made a fair number, and this is what we deserve. We talked to MLB to make sure they thought it was a fair number, and they agreed.
We said [to the Mets], "We can end it right now simply if you just give us this, we'll sign that day." We started talking three or four days before that date. They came in at 2.8 [million], and we were like, "No, we want 3.125 and we're good." The good thing is we had quick communication. They said 2.8, we said no, 3.125. They said 3, we said 3.125. They said 3.1, we said 3.125. They said 3.120, we said 3.125. That day was over and it was past the date. The next day they go, "Here's the 3.125." The good thing is, we weren't asking for $4MM. We didn't have to go to arbitration and have potential to lose $800K or $1MM because we have a poor number.
On going year-to-year versus signing long-term:
I like being with Lou Jon because we're pretty open about what it will take and what's a good deal. We go over what is a fair deal to do. We're not asking crazy amounts, we just want what's fair, what I have proved on the field and what I deserve. If that comes to where the Mets do offer me an extension or want to extend me, me and Lou Jon will come up with a number that we think is a fair number -- not a number that's not fair or we're pushing the envelope. If whoever doesn't want the fair number then obviously we'll go year-to-year and me and Lou Jon have no problem doing it, but guaranteed years and security is always nice. Lou Jon has a lot of confidence in me to go year-to-year and be fine if that's the case.
Has the team thrown anything out there to date?
No. We have not. The first thing I ever even heard about it was a couple of days ago, but there was no conversation, it was just a random passerby asked me if I knew they were thinking about extending me, and I was like, "Nah, I haven't heard of anything." I guess Sandy had said something to somebody that they were thinking about it, something like that.
Would you be open to giving up a free agent year or two to get that guarantee now?
I'm open to a conversation about anything. The free agency years are obviously the tough ones, because those are the years that you have the potential to sign a bigger contract for a longer term. As for arbitration, I wouldn't mind a three or four-year deal where it takes arbitration out of it. We're more inclined to take care of the arbitration years. They always say your first deal, it's mutual, but it's team-oriented, and your free agency is obviously player-oriented. Me and Lou Jon are up for anything, but it has to make sense.
On whether he's recommended Lou Jon to other players:
Me and Lou Jon are really good friends now. We've known each other for ten years, I know his whole family and we spend a lot of time together. He comes over, we'll go to hole-in-the-wall food places, my brother hangs out with him, he's around a lot. But I also hang out with baseball players. I don't like pressuring people into doing stuff. That's another reason Lou Jon's really cool, is that he never pressures my friends, asking questions about how they feel about their agents. He knows that if they were looking for an agent, they would ask him about it.
On whether a larger agency offers an advantage over a small one:
For sure. When I was with CSMG with Lou Jon, it was a good-sized agency, but it was small. Once they moved to Octagon, there's just more people reaching out trying to improve your brand, getting more opportunities and more business ventures. There's more connections and more hands that are working on stuff.
Check out our other interviews in the Why I Chose My Agency series with Ted Lilly, Ryan Ludwick, Cody Ross, Aramis Ramirez, Adam Wainwright, Jeremy Affeldt, David Wright, Jay Bruce, and Matt Holliday.