Keibert Ruiz switches from Boras to Octagon

Photo by Sol Tucker for TalkNats

On a quiet workout day in Spring Training, news broke that Keibert Ruiz was changing agents from Scott Boras to the Octagon Agency’s Gustavo Marcano. The strangest part about this news was that Ruiz had switched from another agent to Boras almost immediately after the Dodgers traded him to the Nationals in 2021. 

In the past year, the Nats have pared down the number of Boras clients after trading away Juan Soto and Josh Bell, and non-tendering Erick Fedde and the DFA of Seth Romero. The funny part was that in last year’s trade of Soto and Bell it yielded back two Boras clients in James Wood and MacKenzie Gore.

After Ruiz’s departure, it just leaves Cristhian Vaquero, Luis Garcia, Wood, Gore, and Stephen Strasburg  as the top prospects and 40-man players reportedly as Boras clients. Maybe there are others, maybe not. Boras does not publicly post his list of clients.

In 2018, the Washington Nationals roster had 60 percent of their starting pitchers with Boras that included Max Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez. Boras represented 100 percent of the Nats starting outfield at one time with Jayson Werth, Michael Taylor, and Bryce Harper along with backup Brian Goodwin who was another of the Nats former first round picks. On the infield, he had 50 percent of the players from that 2016 team with Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa. If one player left, it seemed like another moved in like catcher Matt Wieters.

Like him or not, there has never been a sports agent who has transcended the modern game more than Boras. The Nats and Boras have been tied together since the day the team signed Strasburg in 2009 to the largest draft contract in history. It has been one of those relationships that feels like a whole lot of taking by the agent and giving by the team in a one-sided relationship with favors given along the way by the Nats.

If Boras needed a favor, he had a direct line to the patriarch of the Lerner ownership group in Ted Lerner when he was alive.  There was that time the Nats signed Boras’ client Rafael Soriano to the largest free agent deal ever for a closer. Sure, the Nats needed bullpen help at the time, but there were better and cheaper fits for the Nats and Soriano remained unsigned into late January of 2013. Did Boras call in a favor when nobody was signing Soriano? Not only did it appear to be an overpay, the Nats had to forfeit their first round pick in the 2014 draft because of that signing.

The mind-boggling signing of Wieters deep into spring training of 2017 was another head-scratcher. He arrived injured, and was a complete bust for the team considering his combined Fangraphs WAR over his two seasons with the team was a -0.8. The Nats paid him $21 million at the same time they were above the CBT payroll cap.

There were certainly harsh criticisms that Boras was effectively running the Nationals which prompted a Washington Post article titled “Does Scott Boras run the Nationals?” The answer clearly was ‘no’ but he wielded a lot of influence, and mostly because he was an agent at one time for six of the Nats top seven players.

“We represent a lot of high draft picks, and we have three or four of them here,” Boras said back in 2015. “Now, those high draft picks are very talented. They develop a core, and now they start seeking our free agents. So you get this period of time where you have a culmination of draft and free agency, and then it creates a volume of players on the team.”

While the Nats seemingly appeared to be bending over backwards at every turn for Boras, the team also took hits in bad press. When things didn’t go Boras’ way with the Nats, it seemed to get aired out like dirty laundry in the press. Boras did nothing at the time to stick up for the team. The way Harper left for free agency with news leaking about lengthy deferrals that embarrassed the Nats was not a good look once the media ran with the story. What the Nats offered or didn’t offer was another case of a public relations nightmare as it was handled poorly. Then the following year after winning the World Series, it was Rendon who walked for another mega contract and news leaked that Rendon was not happy with the chartered jet service during the postseason. What?

Of course the Nats signed Strasburg to the largest free agent pitching contract at the time for a right-handed pitcher and that contract, let’s just say, has not performed at all. And by the way, there are no refunds when a contract goes that bad.

“Everyone in DC knows special cherry trees create revenue bloom to get it done,” Boras said when trying to convince everyone the Nats had enough money to sign both Strasburg and Rendon.

If it felt like every contract was there to squeeze the last nickel out of ownership, it certainly felt that way. The media just added fuel to the fire. Some would say that is an agent’s job to get the player the most money they can get. But we’ve seen many cases with other agents where that has not been the case. But first and foremost, an agent’s job is to represent their client in the player’s best interest. Just yesterday Soto on Padres radio via Audacy said:

“I just let my agent do work with it. I’m here to play baseball. I’m just gonna keep playing baseball. I let Scott (Boras) to do all the business part and he will let me know what’s gonna be the best (option).”

As Boras turned 70 last year, he has to be looking to a succession plan as to his future as Father Time is undefeated. How much longer can Boras keep doing this? The elder Boras has reportedly been grooming his son Shane to take over, but will players want Shane Boras negotiating their next deals? Could you see Shane circumventing a general manager to call straight to a team owner like his father was known to do?

“Obviously, Scott Boras goes to ownership for the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks: because that’s where the money is,” Peter Schmuck once wrote.

When CAA Baseball was in their early years in the baseball agency business, we saw them change the head of their baseball operations three times in the last dozen years as Casey Close departed to head another agency and Brodie Van Wagenen took the helm until he moved into the General Manager’s role with the Mets, which did not last long. But players like Ryan Zimmerman and Trea Turner stayed with CAA, rather they have stayed there through the change in top management. Can the Boras Agency stay relevant after their leader steps down? The changing from fathers to their children is not always a smooth transition. We will see how Mark Lerner does without his father.

“Ted Lerner went out and signed Max Scherzer,” Boras said, “and gave him a record contract, record years, and he was annihilated for it! They told him that was a mistake. That was an overpay!”

Yes, it takes two to tango. Love him, hate him, the relationship with Boras yielded Scherzer. Sure, the Nats paid the biggest bucks for him, but that might be one of the best free agent deals in history, and unfortunately Strasburg as the worst. You probably want to keep a good relationship with Boras because you never know. You can try to be a team like the Atlanta Braves and not draft or trade for Boras clients. But Boras has some of the best players. Maybe the Nationals will want to pursue Soto in free agency after the 2024 season.

Now with Boras representing fewer players, and CJ Abrams with Roc Nation and Ruiz with Octagon, is it time for general manager Mike Rizzo to pounce on a Braves’ type of team friendly long-term deal? This could be an ongoing discussion. The Nats will only have one long-term contract remaining after this season, and that is with Strasburg for three more years from 2024-2026.


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