In November 2017, at the start of what became a lucrative but drawn-out trip to free agency, slugger J.D. Martinez changed representation and hired famed agent Scott Boras. Now, 14-plus months after Martinez scored a five-year, $110MM guarantee from the Red Sox in February 2018, his former rep – RMG Sports Group president Bob Garber – is crying foul on his ex-client’s switch. Garber is suing Merrill Lynch; Bruce Lee, one of Merrill Lynch’s Chicago-based financial advisers; and Pierce Fenner & Smith, “alleging tortious interference with contractual relations,” Scott Holland of the Cook County Record reports.
Garber had represented Martinez since 2010, the year after the Astros drafted him, but he claims in the lawsuit that Lee helped influence Martinez to hire Boras. According to Garber, he introduced Martinez to Lee, and the outfielder later hired Lee and Merrill Lynch “to provide wealth management services,” Holland writes. However, Garber alleged, “Upon learning of Boras’ impressive book of clients. Lee decided to grab an opportunity to get a foothold into the lucrative list of baseball clients represented by Scott Boars by using Martinez as his bait.”
Garber continued that in October 2017, shortly before Martinez defected to the Boras Corporation, the player engaged in phone discussions with Lee in which Lee “told Martinez to terminate his contractual relationship with RMG and Garber, telling Martinez, among other fabrications, that Bob is done, Bob is a hack and that Bob will sell him short.” As Holland writes, Garber added that Lee met with the Boras Corporation in November “to discuss referrals for his financial advising services,” indicating the two sides employed underhanded tactics that led to Boras stealing Martinez’s business from Garber.
This is somewhat of a similar situation to one in 2018 that saw Juan Carlos Nunez sue the ACES Agency, where he formerly worked as an independent contractor. As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd explained at the time, Nunez alleged that “ACES founders Sam and Seth Levinson guided and funded him in a scheme to attract clients and connect them with performance-enhancing drugs.” Nunez sought “millions” in damages, but wrongdoing on the part of ACES was never proven.
Likewise, it may be difficult to show real evidence that Lee did anything to help sway Martinez to Boras. Regardless, though, Martinez’s switch to Boras had negative financial ramifications for Garber. Had Garber kept representing Martinez, RMG Sports Group would have continued to earn a 5 percent commission on his baseball-related income. Therefore, had Martinez inked the same $110MM contract with Garber on his side, RMG would have raked in $5.5MM.
It’s anyone’s guess whether Martinez would have landed the same deal had he kept Garber in place, of course. Even though Martinez entered the market as a superstar-caliber hitter, concerns over his defense and age (30 at the time) helped lead to a lack of suitors on the open market. He and the Red Sox wound up engaged in a months-long standoff, during which it seemed like only a matter of time before he’d head to Boston. That’s exactly what happened, and the Red Sox have since reaped the rewards in the form of elite production from Martinez and a World Series championship in his first season with the club.
Going forward, it’s possible the Boras-repped Martinez will collect another major payday in the coming years. His current pact includes a pair of opt-out chances, one after this season and another at the conclusion of the 2020 campaign. But if Martinez takes advantage of that opportunity during the upcoming offseason, he’d be leaving a guaranteed $62.5MM on the table.