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Volume 23 No. 18
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Boras: Tigers landed Torkelson for a bargain

Powerful MLB agent Scott Boras advised eight players taken in the first round of last month’s MLB draft, including the No. 1 overall pick, slugger Spencer Torkelson, and broke more contract records along the way.

The Detroit Tigers signed Torkelson to an $8,416,300 signing bonus, a record in the bonus pool slot system that was part of the 2011 MLB collective-bargaining agreement. He was an Arizona State first baseman who broke Barry Bonds’ freshman home-run record and was two shy of breaking the school record when his season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Torkelson’s bonus was also $1,000 above the slot, which may not sound like much, but it is the first time the No. 1 pick signed for an amount above the slot under the current system, according to Jim Callis, MLB.com senior draft analyst, who said Torkelson was the consensus top prospect in the draft for his offensive ability. 

“I’ve had guys suggest he could go straight to the big leagues,” Callis said. “I had one longtime scouting director say he’s the most major-league-ready hitter he’s ever seen in the draft. I think the consensus is — he’s probably the best when you count hitting, power, plate discipline, all that stuff — he might be the best guy coming out of the draft since Mark Teixeira in 2001.”

Slugger Spencer Torkelson was the top pick in last month’s MLB draft.
Photo: getty images
Slugger Spencer Torkelson was the top pick in last month’s MLB draft.
Photo: getty images
Slugger Spencer Torkelson was the top pick in last month’s MLB draft.
Photo: getty images

Boras called Torkelson “a franchise player,” but despite beating the slot price, he said the Tigers got a steal, due to the hard slotting system. “In this system, the best reward you can get is something that is slightly above slot,” Boras said. “And I think that the Tigers got a player that’s worth $50 million in the draft for a price far below. But the truth of the matter is this system is something that has these limitations on it, that it didn’t have prior to 2011.”

Boras has set plenty of records as an agent. Notably, he has negotiated the most contracts worth $100 million or more of any agent or agency with 24, after negotiating more than $1 billion in deals this offseason, including Gerrit Cole’s nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees, a record for a pitcher. 

He’s set records in the draft, too, including negotiating the highest-ever bonus — pitcher Stephen Strasburg’s $15.1 million deal as the No. 1 draft pick in 2009. This past offseason, Boras also negotiated Strasburg’s seven-year, $245 million deal with the Nationals.

In 2009, Boras told Sports Business Journal, “A record, like an umbrella, provides shade. Everyone has something to look at as the ceiling. The hardest contract to negotiate is when you don’t have a ceiling … because the teams always want to relate to the prior record.”

Asked about Torkelson’s record, Boras said it’s not the same because the rookie pool slot system has provided an artificial barrier to players being able to realize their true market value. 

“This system does not in any way allow for fair compensation for great players like Spencer Torkelson,” Boras said. “Granted there are only a few great players every decade or so. There may be as many as 15 or 20, that is about it.”

Boras advised and represented Teixeira in 2001, who had the record for a draft bonus prior to Strasburg, and J.D. Drew, who had the record of $7 million before that, in 1998. (In baseball, players may have advisers, but not agents, before becoming professionals.) 

“Compared to a free market, it illustrates how underpaid these players are,” Boras said. “J.D. Drew got 7 or 8 million. Mark Teixeira got 10 million in 2001. Now Torkelson gets a record bonus in the current system and is only making 8½ [million].”

Boras said baseball is losing great athletes to other sports as a result of the system. “That is why we lose a brilliant athlete and a leader like Kyler Murray to the NFL instead of being a star center fielder in Major League Baseball,” Boras said.

Murray was drafted No. 1 overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 2019 and received a reported $35 million contract. Select Sports Group represented Murray in the football contract. Boras was Murray’s baseball adviser, and the outfielder for Oklahoma was drafted by the Oakland A’s in 2018, but chose football over baseball.

In addition to Torkelson, Boras is advising seven other players taken in MLB’s first round of 37 selections, including infielder Austin Martin taken No. 5 by the Blue Jays.

The other players are outfielder Austin Hendrick (No. 12, Reds); center fielder Garrett Mitchell (No. 20, Brewers); catcher Austin Wells (No. 28, Yankees); shortstop Jordan Westburg (No. 30, Orioles); catcher Drew Romo (No. 35, Rockies); and pitcher Tanner Burns (No. 36, Indians).

WASSERMAN ACQUISITION GROWS HOCKEY: Wasserman’s acquisition last month of Acme World Sports will grow its hockey practice to about 80 clients and give the division a global reach, Jeff Jackson, executive vice president of the division, said last week. 

Wasserman acquired Acme, which is based in Helsinki, Finland, and Chicago, and represents about 50 players under NHL contract in late June. Clients of Acme who are now Wasserman clients include Hurricanes wing Teuvo Teravainen, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask and Stars defenseman Esa Lindell.

“They have a very strong presence in Europe, and that was the whole point of this deal from a strategic point of view — we didn’t have a European presence,” said Jackson. “You know hockey is a very global game; there’s lots of European, high-end, top players, playing in the NHL and this gives us a really strong presence in Europe.”

Acme founder and NHL agent Markus Lehto, as well as several agents and executives, will join Wasserman as part of the agreement. Jackson said the two agencies have been in discussion about the deal for about 18 months. Wasserman launched its hockey division in March 2018.

 

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.