Wieters issue has MacPhail in a bind

July 12, 2007 | Drew Forrester

So, I heard from my sources today that O’s President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail “loathes” the thought of having to deal with agent Scott Boras, who represents catcher Matt Wieters, Baltimore’s #1 pick in last month’s Amateur draft.  The Birds have until August 15 to sign Wieters or else he goes back into the 2008 draft pool.  Between now and August 15, MacPhail will be asked several times about his relationship with Boras and Andy will go out of his way to assure everyone he and Boras are “on good working terms.” Don’t kid yourself.  MacPhail is not at all happy about the fact that Boras has him over a barrel in what is soon to be MacPhail’s first significant moment as the O’s new boss of all things baseball.

Because MacPhail’s primary management experience came with the low-budget Minnesota Twins, he rarely dealt with Boras throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s.  But things were different in Chicago in the 2000’s, where MacPhail had tons of money to spend when he ran the Cubs organization and he worked with Boras on several clients, including Greg Maddux among others.  It was apparently during his days with the Cubs that MacPhail learned how pompous and not-so-flexible Boras can be, particuarly when he holds the hammer and all the bargaining leverage – as most agents do in major league baseball.

MacPhail has obviously inherited a potential migraine with the Wieters-Boras partnership.  First, MacPhail didn’t select Wieters, someone else did.  Yet he’s forced to carry on with this signing endeavor as if his heart is 100% behind the selection of Wieters.  And what if his heart isn’t behind the pick?  What if, in HIS baseball opinion, Wieters isn’t the player HE would have selected?  What if, based on that, he believes Matt Wieters ISN’T worth the requested $10 million signing bonus?  Then what?

I can say with great certainty – based on people I’ve talked with – that MacPhail would have used that first pick for someone OTHER than Wieters if, in fact, the draft were this month instead of last month.  Yes, Boras is a big reason why the pick would have been someone other than Wieters, just like the people in Pittsburgh – for example – opted not to pick Wieters and face a Boras-led haggling session.

But the reality is this…Wieters WAS selected by the Orioles.  And they have until August 15 to get him signed.  MacPhail can wish it was someone else he was dealing with – and he can wish all he wants that the circumstances were different – but it is, what it is.  Now, the question is – how’s it all going to conclude?

MacPhail can play baseball executive with Boras and negotiate like a madman if he wants to go that route.  But we all know how that will end.  Boras will ask for the $10 million signing bonus.  MacPhail will say, “we’re looking at more like $6 million.”  Boras will say, “Call me back when you find another $4 million.”  MacPhail will call a couple of days later and say, “let’s not argue over a few million bucks, Scott…we’ll give the boy $8 million, how’s that sound?”  And Boras will reply, “It sounds like you’re $2 million short, that’s how it sounds to me.”

And Andy MacPhail will have his first MAJOR decision as the Orioles chief cook and bottle washer.  Does he cave in to the arrogant weasel-agent guy whose client hasn’t ever swung a wooden bat in anger in his life?  Or does he tell Scotty to take a hike and get some walking boots for his client at the same time?

MacPhail’s primary job is to build a successful baseball franchise and do so within the reasonable financial limits that Peter Angelos has set for him.  I’m sure MacPhail’s job description doesn’t include a mandate that he give the #1 pick a $10 million signing bonus “just because”.

Well, what if MacPhail believes $10 million to sign Matt Wieters is WRONG?  What if MacPhail doesn’t want to stake HIS reputation on someone else’s draft selection?  Can you blame him?  I mean, honestly, how would YOU feel if you inherited a position where some glitzy bonus-baby showed up at your door and you weren’t convinced this was the right guy for the job?

Should MacPhail sign the kid, fork over the $10 mil and face a year or two of intense scrutiny on whether or not it was a good investment on his part?  If he signs Wieters and he doesn’t work out, all Pete is going to remember is that Andy MacPhail threw $10 million dollars of good money away.

It’s a tough call.  On the whole, and Boras probably knows this, the Orioles really don’t have a choice.  They MUST sign Matt Wieters, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is a growing number of disgruntled fans who are ready to leap off the U.S.S. Sinking Oriole.  If they fail to sign Wieters, regardless of how logical the explanation, the majority of people in Baltimore will believe Andy MacPhail’s arrival hasn’t changed a thing.

Does MacPhail prove to the fans that things ARE different by signing a player that he believes might not be worth $10 million and, in a perfect world, wouldn’t have been his pick in the first place?  What if he gives the kid money – the fans are thrilled because things ARE different now – and Wieters is a flop – not worthy of that kind of financial commitment?

And lastly, not that this would ever happen under the new era of O’s management, what if Pete puts the clamps on the deal by simply saying to MacPhail, “You have full authority to sign that young man as long as he doesn’t cost me more than $7.2 million up front”?

One thing for sure…this next month is going to be a tough one for Andy MacPhail.

That is, unless he finds an extra $10 million laying around.