Boras: Free-agent process ‘corrupt’

Kyle Lohse signed a $33 million contract Monday, but his agent – the ever-persuasive Scott Boras – isn’t convinced that all is right with the free-agent market.

Boras pointed out that Lohse received less money per year than Ryan Dempster, an older pitcher coming off a less impressive season. He made a similar comparison between Adam LaRoche ($12 million per year with Washington) and Shane Victorino ($13 million per year with Boston).

In both cases, Boras suggested, Lohse and LaRoche lost money because they were tied to draft-pick compensation.

“When you have a system that does not reward performance, you know we have something corrupt in the major league process,” Boras told in a Monday interview. “You cannot have that in the major league system, because it’s not rewarding performance.”

Baseball implemented a new compensation system for free agents this year. Clubs could make $13.3 million qualifying offers to any of their own free agents who spent the entire 2012 season on the team.

Nine free agents – including Lohse and LaRoche – received a qualifying offer in November. Each player rejected it, meaning a new team would need to surrender its highest pick in order to sign one of them.

Perhaps equally significant, the acquiring teams – such as Milwaukee with Lohse – had to give up the signing-bonus allocation associated with the pick. That was a change from the previous collective bargaining agreement, which didn’t include a cap on amateur bonus money.

Boras views the loss of bonus-pool money as added disincentive to sign a free agent. He would like to see it eliminated, so, as he put it, teams aren’t forced to choose between improving their major league roster and replenishing through the farm system. (In the past, teams that lost first-round picks after signing free agents could reapply that money – without restriction – to sign high school players in the later rounds who otherwise would go to college.)

“They have to allow teams to spend whatever they want to spend in the draft, so draft dollars aren’t viewed as more important than (the major league team’s) performance,” Boras said.

Otherwise, he suggested, non-contending teams could theoretically benefit by losing games – in the sense that teams with the lowest winning percentages are allotted the most draft money. Boras said baseball should remove any financial motivation for teams to lose.

Ultimately, if amateur spending caps are deemed necessary by Major League Baseball and the players’ union, Boras would propose a hybrid solution – applying those limits only after the second round. That way, a team losing its top pick could apply its first-round budget to a second-round selection. Part of the reason to do that, Boras said, is to ensure that teams maintain or strengthen their current amateur scouting staffs. His point: Could teams justify investing substantial sums in scouts’ salaries and travel expenses if they aren’t going to actually sign the players those evaluators are watching?

“These clubs are investing $2 million to $3 million per year preparing for the draft,” Boras said. “There needs to be utility for that investment.”