Hard Line Will Scott Boras's waiting game help or hurt his clients this year?

January 19, 2004

January is the traditional month for markdowns on bath towels,
bed linens and journeyman pitchers, not on two potential Hall of
Famers coming off solid years. Among the unclaimed inventory this
late in the off-season, however, were righthander Greg Maddux and
catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Both are represented by Scott Boras, who
has stuck to his high-stakes waiting game even in the face of the
industry's economic slowdown.

"I think he understands there's been a regression in the market,"
Padres general manager Kevin Towers says. "But he knows all it
takes is one team to get a deal."

Says Boras, "When [owners] know when a player is ready to sign,
that's when they'll come running. I profess it is still an issue
about talent. This idea of timing determining value is something
I find not to be true."

Though Maddux and Rodriguez each had strong relationships with
their former teams, the Braves and the Marlins, respectively,
neither came close to re-signing. General manager John Schuerholz
says he "assumed our chances of re-signing Greg were zero" after
the agent told him that Maddux, 37, did not expect a large pay
cut from the $14.75 million he earned last year. Schuerholz's
mandate was to cut his 2003 payroll of $95 million by $15 to $20
million this year.

Towers made a brief attempt last month to lure Maddux to San
Diego, but, like Schuerholz, he cut bait quickly. "Scott made it
clear he wasn't going to take that much of a discount," Towers
says.

Boras is seeking at least a two-year, $20 million deal for Maddux
and expects him to sign this week, according to executives. One
source says Boras has one "big-money" offer from an East Coast
team, believed to be the Orioles, but that Maddux's priority is a
competitive West Coast team in the National League. The Dodgers
are one possibility, but the Giants have not entered the bidding
because of the price. One executive predicted Maddux would sign
with the Cubs, where he started his career, because "they have
the money this late in the game to get it done."

Like Maddux, Rodriguez, 32, garnered only a one-year deal as a
free agent last year, with $7 million of his $10 million salary
deferred. He played well for the world-champion Marlins (.297, 16
homers, 85 RBIs) but priced himself out of their plans by asking
for a multiyear deal at $10 million per. Rodriguez could find the
most money in Detroit, where the 119-loss Tigers are trying to
buy some respectability, but he may go to Baltimore after
Vladimir Guerrero spurned the Orioles to sign with Anaheim (box,
below). The Cubs have also shown interest.

When asked if Boras would succeed, Towers replied, "It may
happen. It may only lead to one-year deals, but he did it last
year, and he can do it again."

Asked about taking one-year deals again for Maddux and Rodriguez,
Boras said, "I can tell you that will not be the case."

COLOR PHOTO: MARK HUMPHREY/AP Boras (inset) wants multiyear deals at $10 million annually for Maddux (left) and Pudge. COLOR PHOTO: TAMI CHAPPELL/REUTERS [See caption above] COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [See caption above]

Contract Contraction

A price check of comparable free agents from the 2000-01 off-season (listed first) and this off-season.

Age HRs RBIs Avg. Contract

POWER-HITTING OUTFIELDER

Manny Ramirez 28 236 804 .313 8 years, $160 million
Vladimir Guerrero 27 234 702 .323 5 years, $70 million

SLICK-FIELDING FIRST BASEMAN WITH LITTLE POWER

David Segui 34 121 590 .292 4 years, $28 million
J.T. Snow 35 173 773 .263 1 year, $1.75 million

Age W-L ERA IP Contract

VETERAN STARTING PITCHER, PROVEN WINNER

Mike Mussina 32 147-81 3.53 2,009 2/3 6 years, $88.5 million
Andy Pettitte 31 149-78 3.94 1,792 2/3 3 years, $31.5 million

HARD-THROWING RIGHTHANDED STARTER/RELIEVER

Darren Dreifort 28 39-45 4.28 667 5 years, $55 million
Kelvim Escobar 27 58-55 4.58 849 3 years, $18.75 million

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)