Thursday, April 10, 2014

How Agent Gustavo Vazquez screwed Salvador Perez and why Giants brass tabled Sandoval talks

Close your eyes and imagine this for a moment. It's 2008 and Katy Perry's magical song about kissing girls is brand new. An intriguing 21 year old 3B/C named Pablo Sandoval has come out of nowhere to hit .345 in only 41 games. No one quite knows how good he can be, or that one day he'll be an All-Star or a World Series MVP. No one knows about the Panda-monium.
Perez may be smiling now, but he won't be
later when he realizes how much money
he'll be missing out on in the future.

Now, I want you to substitute Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez for your vision of Sandoval. You can't picture Perez? Well, that's a shame, because he's one of the best young talents in the game that you probably haven't seen play-- unless you watched him catch Mariano Rivera in the All-Star Game last year at Citi Field in New York.

Then, Salvador Perez was a 22 year-old All-Star; a guy who was once signed by a rickety old Royals scouting program in Venezuela for a measly $65k. Probably similar to what Sandoval got from the Giants.

Like Panda, Perez was called up for the first time as a 21 year old, and promptly hit over .300, showing excellent defense and instincts. Recalled the following year in June of 2012, "Salvy" as he's known, hit over .300 again with 11 HR and a .993 fielding percentage in only 76 games.

Take this quote from Royals Scout Art Stewart:

“He’s one of the best young catchers I’ve seen. You gotta go back to Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez) and guys like that. He’s got the ability to be an All-Star for many years. As long as he stays healthy.”

Read more here:

Most teams would stand pat, and enjoy the fact that they had this young talent under team control through pre-arbitration and arbitration years-- usually 6, sometimes 7 years. The Royals, sick of losing games and losing their players to richer teams, decided to be aggressive and lock him up.

Indeed it is unusual for a team to offer a multi-year deal to a player still so deep under team control. There are examples of this, but the likes of Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria are just not good comparisons. Those two were blue-chippers who've been told they're great from age 10 and have behaved accordingly. They commanded big deals in comparison (but not compared to their production on the open market), and preferred to stay in their small market havens a couple years into free agency while being able to sign an open-market deal before they turn 30.

Perez's deal is different. It's completely irresponsible.

While researching this, I came upon McCovey Chronicles' fearless leader Grant Brisbee's take on the contract via SB Nation's "Baseball Nation".

It fascinated him, he couldn't stop thinking about it. It was just plain interesting. A young, rather unproven guy still under control for years signing a seemingly creative contract that was almost a no-risk deal for KC. On the other hand, it was some guaranteed money for Perez if he couldn't hack it. A win-win it seemed.

Now it's just a win for the Royals; the type of thing Royals GM Dayton Moore thinks of when he has a bad day to cheer him up. Kansas City made out like bandits, they knew it, and Pablo Sandoval's agent Gustavo Vazquez is to blame.

Until very recently, as I detailed here, Vazquez was a member of Morgan Advisory Group (MAG), and held the title of Senior Baseball Director. He was charismatic, and was an excellent recruiter. MAG's stable of players was primarily Latin American, and mostly Venezuelan (including of course Sandoval and Perez). The players felt comfortable dealing with "one of their own", and became good friends with their representation.

Gustavo Vazquez
That's where Gustavo Vazquez's skills as an agent end.

For all his skills wooing potential clients, Vazquez lacked the shrewdness and knowledge necessary to structure contracts, and there is no better example than the Salvador Perez deal.

According to a source (and yes, a legitimate source that I'm not making up, because I take this seriously), Vazquez took liberties with the Perez-KC negotiations that culminated in Perez signing "one of the most irresponsible, team-friendly contracts in the last 20 years".

The reason it was so fascinating at the time is because it didn't make sense. What player would sign away most of his promising career for $23MM at most??

The answer? A player who became too buddy-buddy with his agent, who in turn did not follow directions from his agency.

Let me ask you this. Would Scott Boras tell Salvy Perez to sign that deal? Absolutely not. Scott Boras would laugh in the Dayton Moore's face and book a tee time on his iPhone immediately. That's how ludicrous this deal was.

According to the source, Vazquez was told not to include any free agency years or any club options in the Perez deal-- a standard thing. Of course Vazquez made sure the contract included all of that stuff and more. Name one young player that gave up free agency years in a contract extension that isn't making significant money. Think Posey, Longoria, Braun.

It simply doesn't happen-- and that's why this deal was so egregiously irresponsible.

From Cot's Contracts:

Salvador Perez c
5 years/$7M (2012-16), plus 2017-19 options
  • 5 years/$7M (2012-16), plus 2017-19 club options
    • signed extension with Kansas City 2/27/12
    • 12:$0.75M, 13:$1M, 14:$1.5M, 15:$1.75M, 16:$2M, 17:$3.75M club option,18:$5M club option, 19:$6M club option
    • award bonuses, including $50,000 for All-Star selection
    • 2017-19 salaries may increase by additional $5M overall based on performance and awards in 2012-16 (earns bonuses by reaching 4 points, with 1 point each for All-Star selection, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, top 15 in MVP vote)
  • 1 year (2011)
    • contract purchased by Kansas City 8/10/11
  • signed by Kansas City 2006 as an amateur free agent from Venezuela
Honestly, when I first saw this, knowing how valuable Perez is, I did a triple take. Huh? 5 years, $7MM? That's barely a raise over what he'd make already-- the minimum. Then, you look at all his arbitration years ('15-'17), completely swallowed up-- years where knowing what we know now, he'd certainly eclipse those totals. On top of it, the Royals either get an out in the form of THREE club options, or can retain Perez through his 29th birthday at the rate of a backup catcher. The incentive system is childlike, absurd, and who knows if any of that will vest. I mean... a point system? My 5th grade teacher had a point system for when we got out of line. 3 points and we got sent out of the classroom.

Again, why would Perez sign this deal?

You're talking about a poor kid from Venezuela who had his mom pitch him corn kernels while he hit them with a broomstick. He was a 22 year old from from South America in the middle of Kansas City, Missouri. Most Americans at that age are naive fools as well. I don't blame him necessarily. I also don't blame the Royals. There's a reason there are agents and lawyers and a Players Union-- to protect players from being taken advantage of.

It was pure negligence on Vazquez's part-- a guy who simply signed whatever KC put in front of him and effectively signed away his client's best years for peanuts. If Perez were to become just a third of the player Buster Posey is, he'd be making $48MM over that 8 year period-- very similar to the initial 6 year deal signed by Longoria.

This contract was also an embarrassment to Morgan Advisory Group, who trusted their supposed "Senior Baseball Director" to follow directions that came from the top-- presumably, but not confirmed, Ryan Morgan himself.

And if you look at the timeline of the Perez contract, more interesting facts come to light.

The deal was made official on 2/27//12. On the surface, you'd think this is irrelevant. However, a closer look at what this date corresponded with is telling.

MAG represents a good deal of NFL players and rookies trying to get drafted. It is now the biggest part of their business after Gustavo Vazquez and Michel Velasquez stole their entire MLB Portfolio in a rogue move that I talked about yesterday.

And where do agents and players go before the NFL Draft? The NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

The Combine was held in Indy from 2/22/12 until 2/28/12, and presumably, most of MAG was either there or focusing on that while Vazquez was mortgaging away his client's future in Kansas City or at Spring Training in Arizona.

What does this have to do with the Giants?

Vazquez and his henchman Velasquez are now "representing" the maddeningly lovable Pablo Sandoval, who is set to hit the open market after this season. Brian Sabean is "at the end of his rope" and contract talks have been tabled. As I said yesterday, you cannot blame Sabean or Bobby Evans for suspending talks. You're dealing with two geniuses that are getting sued by their former employer for $5MM after stealing equipment, money, and MAG's entire MLB client list in a stupid scheme. It's like talking to a brick wall.

You're talking about a couple of guys operating on, essentially, stolen capital that is almost certainly beginning to run out. These guys want need to make a huge splash with their biggest client with their new agency. If for example, Pablo were to make the wise decision and go back to Morgan or even choose Scott Boras, who he was seen speaking to in LA, Vazquez's house of cards would collapse immediately.

These guys would likely sell their own mothers to improve their situations, and that's how they view Sandoval-- as their meal ticket.

Unless their 5 years, $90MM is met, they basically have nothing to say. No matter that comparing an injury prone 3B who has only achieved an OPS over .800 twice in 5 full seasons to a 5 tool OF that never misses a game is absurd. They want Pence money, and they want it now.

The comparison baseline doesn't even make sense.

If they want to compare him to someone and reach for the stars, why don't you start with David Wright or Evan Longoria, and work your way down to the closest comparison, Ryan Zimmerman of the Nats.

Zimmerman is almost assuredly overpaid, and has now developed an arthritic throwing shoulder in the first year of a 6yr./$100MM deal. It's a cautionary tale indeed. Now they're hoping  to move Zimm over to 1st or teach him how to throw sidearm.

So yes, the deal these clowns seek is valid when compared to Zimmerman's deal in some ways, but that is assuming that Pablo is Zimmerman's equal. He simply hasn't been. Zimmerman is a career .286 hitter with 180 career HR. Pablo has a slightly higher career average, but just doesn't have the track record.

The Nats made a mistake with that contract, and now it's the baseline for Sandoval. Isn't it great how this works?

As I've said, it's not the money factor that bugs me about this situation, or even Sandoval's on-field play. It's about two unprofessional shadesters unwilling to negotiate with an organization that is unquestionably the most loyal in baseball.

The Giants have locked up (for better or worse) every single player that has either helped them win, or is loved by fans. Aubrey Huff, Scutaro, Bumgarner, Posey, Lincecum, Vogelsong, Cain, Pence, etc., etc. They even gave Barry Zito more dignity and chances at redemption than Pope Francis would have.

They want to keep Sandoval in San Francisco, but if you're dealing with a couple of dopes that won't negotiate or be reasonable, then you face the near certainty that the player you're trying to re-sign will end up hitting the open market and a bidding war will ensue.

To be honest, that's how I see this shaking out. It has never been Vazquez's goal to get a deal done with the Giants. His goal is to have his client fought over and overpaid, and that's what we're looking at.

Whether or not you think any of this is relevant, I don't know, but it is an interesting story that directly affects the Giants, and I cannot for the life of me understand why this facet of the Sandoval negotiations has not been blown up yet. If these guys feel the heat on them, they may be more likely to cut bait with their hardball stance and sign whatever the Giants put in front of them, just like they did to Salvador Perez.


  1. Great piece Dan. It's all very relevant, and you're right.. how is this not something being talked about? Guys like Baggs are usually all over this kind of stuff, but maybe he's been told by the higher-ups at CSN not to rock the boat here. Either way, shady stuff.

    It certainly doesn't help that Pablo is pressing his ass off out there lately. It only took 11 games for him to get subbed out for Arias' defense! I'm sure he'll come around offensively, but if he doesn't put up the ungodly numbers everyone's expecting from him, he won't be as highly sought on the market as these dopes are envisioning. Especially not if the Giants slap a QO on him. How'd that work out for Nelson Cruz, Kendry Morales and Stephen Drew. I don't think Pablo's camp has near as much leverage as they'd like to believe. For our sake, hopefully the guy turns his attention back to baseball and helps the Giants win some games... he certainly seems a little distracted at the moment.

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