The case for Hoz: Intangibles form backbone of Boras' sales pitch
The three-ring binder will have graphs and numbers and quotes and comparisons that will make Eric Hosmer look like some cross between Ted Williams and the Pope. If it’s not done already, it will be soon, distributed by agent Scott Boras to the Royals and any other team interested in giving Homser many, many, many millions of dollars to play baseball.
These binders are famous in baseball circles. Boras’ binder for Alex Rodriguez reportedly compared him to Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Johnny Damon once said his binder made him feel like Ty Cobb.
So, Hosmer’s binder will note that he is a world champion, a Gold Glove winner, and that only five primary first basemen have a higher OPS over the last three years with at least 400 games played. Only three have more RBIs, and none of them played in worse offenses. Pretty standard stuff, really.
But one part that may surprise you is a metric on intangibles. That is not a typo.
Boras breaks it down into categories: clubhouse effect, media skills, community involvement, performance under psychological pressure, etc., to come up with a, well, a tangible measurement of something impossible to measure tangibly.
“That’s a new one to me,” said an American League executive. “I respect Scott. But that doesn’t mean our budget changes.”
Boras has built something like a fiefdom in pushing the boundaries of those budgets, though, and in Hosmer he may have his best test case for putting value on intangibles. His measurements are not new, but they could take on a greater role in negotiations for Hosmer.
A National League executive expected Boras to push for an eight-year contract worth $200 million. Those are big numbers, but Hosmer’s case is interesting.
He turns only 28 this month, and is coming off the best season of his life — career highs in batting, on-base percentage, slugging, runs, hits, home runs, walks and extra-base hits.
The biggest problem with free-agent contracts is typically a misjudgment or misunderstanding of how quickly a player will age, but Hosmer’s next contract will buy more peak years than most, and will be going to a man whose body, work habits and skill-set profile to age well.
With teams often looking at the last year (or two, if the deal is long enough) of free-agent contracts as the cost of winning the negotiation, Hosmer is well-positioned for this winter’s biggest payday.
And if the $25 million salary seems too high, consider that Chris Davis (also a Boras client) got seven years for $161 million ($23 million average) when he was two years older than Hosmer is now without the athleticism or defense, had an amphetamine suspension, and was one year removed from hitting .196.
Davis hit 47 homers in his walk year, but just 18 on the road away from tiny Camden Yards. And, in general, homers are being devalued while diverse skills are increasing in value.
Besides, baseball revenue is growing at about 10 percent per year, meaning a $23 million average salary for Davis two years ago is actually more than a $25 million average salary would be for Hosmer now. Assuming revenues continue on pace, a team’s ability to pay $20 million now will be the same as $30 million in five or six years.
Other free agents who signed for more than $20 million per season coming off inferior offensive production than Hosmer include Jason Heyward, Jacoby Ellsbury and Justin Upton.
The Royals have never had a free agent like this on the market. They traded Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon and Zack Greinke before free agency. Alex Gordon’s market never went where Hosmer’s is expected to be. That the Yankees and Red Sox will be among the teams presumably looking for a first baseman only adds to the price.
Much of this is somewhat standard. Agents are supposed to promote their players, and teams are supposed to negotiate back.
But Boras’ case for Hosmer will be different in tone, if nothing else. Hosmer’s numbers are good enough, but Boras is expected to emphasize the intangible more than teams are accustomed to.
That encompasses everything from Hosmer’s work with Big Brothers Big Sisters to being one of the relative few who can reach all corners of clubhouses often divided between Americans and Spanish speakers.
That means a measurement on being a team spokesman, on finding a teaching moment with Yordano Ventura, on being the one to invite a city out for a drink, the triple in the Wild Card Game, and of course on the mad dash home in New York.
It may not work like Boras hopes, of course. The teams may listen and nod and say that’s nice, but we pay our first basemen to hit home runs.
But consider this. The Royals built their success, in large part, on intangibles. How much did they talk about clubhouse friendships, of bonds formed in the minor leagues, and of the joy they found in playing for each other?
For argument’s sake, let’s assume that was overstated, and that the parade happened because of athleticism and relief pitching more than anything else. But you can’t have watched the Royals’ rise without believing the other stuff had a part in it, too. The resiliency in the comebacks, the consistent performance in the biggest moments.
The Royals had a parade because of these things, the team welcoming in record attendance and interest.
Shouldn’t the players be rewarded, too?
SELLING ERIC HOSMER
RBIs, OPS, Gold Gloves ... these things matter. But agent Scott Boras will make an interesting case stressing intangibles in hopes of earning first baseman Eric Hosmer as much as $200 million on the free-agent market.
Clubhouse effect: Hosmer is bilingual and connects well with anyone in the clubhouse.
Media skills: Having long been in the spotlight, Hosmer is a savvy team ambassador.
Community involvement: Enjoys his work with charities like Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Performance under pressure: Royals fulfilled high expectations with Hosmer as leader.