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Chat: Joshua Kusnick

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday September 17, 2014 2:00 PM ET chat session with Joshua Kusnick.

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Joshua Kusnick is an MLBPA-certified baseball agent, and he writes about his job in An Agent's Take. Ask him about the business or about his now-defunct standup comedy career.

Joshua Kusnick: Starting a little early due to the question volume. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions. I will get to all of them. Boom. As you know I am Joshua Kusnick an MLBPA agent and occasional writer here at BP with my An Agents take column. Thank you to everyone who has read the column. Lets get started.

JP (TX): How much of a difference does having the worst record and getting the first pick affect a teams ability to have a better draft due to extra draft money as opposed to second (or this year 3rd) pick?

Joshua Kusnick: I think scouting more than everything is still the biggest thing. I know the Astros saved a ton of money and doubled down with some over slot guys a few years ago but imagine a prospect pool that had Buxton AND Bryant. That's a thing that totally could have happened.

Jonah (Redwood): On the 20-80 scale, how overrated are Nirvana. You WILL be judged on your answer.

Joshua Kusnick: 0. Greatest band of my lifetime. Is there a better song than Drain You? No. No there is not.

AJ (Phoenix): Do you still represent Adrian Nieto? I remember you speaking about him on Up & In. How did he handle switching organizations?

Joshua Kusnick: Yes I do. It was a shock that he was not protected and an even bigger shock he went rule 5. The sox were in constant communication with him all off season and because of all the work he put in before spring he was able to get a leg up on things coming into spring and as we have witnessed, he was able to become the first rule 5 catcher to stick since 07 I think.

Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Joshua, Pretty surprising that the Angels have fired Greg Morhardt, the scout who was instrumental in landing them Trout, whom Morhardt was already calling a "Hall of Famer" before the draft. How closely do scouts and "advisers" interact during the pre-draft period and how much sway do they have in determining where a player ends up?

Joshua Kusnick: Its a thorny issue. Everyone knows which players have advisors and who they are. Area scouts always have to figure out signability and for them to do that you'd imagine they would have to at some point talk to someones advisor right? It's against the NCAA rules but it happens. It happens all the time. It's one of the reasons I dipped out of the draft. I will only dip my toes in under the most extreme circumstances. Back to your question, I think area scouts have very little pull but it does depend on the organization. It all falls to scouting directors and how much they trust their scouts Hell, pujols scout was fired by the cardinals too.

DR70095 (NC): Who has a better chance of playing CF for the Cubs in the future, Albert Almora or Arismendy Alcantara?

Joshua Kusnick: Wrong chat, sorry.

James (Bethesda): What do you think about the minor league wage suits? Do you think minor leaguers will ever organize / obtain better terms?

Joshua Kusnick: I think minor leaguers should be compensated more than they are. They are paid below minimum wage and only 5 months a year. Something is broken and should be fixed. They need a Curt Flood and a Marvin Miller but time will tell.

Will (NYC): How long does labor peace last? What's your prognosis for the next CBA?

Joshua Kusnick: Since 94 to now it's lasted. I am obviously invested in the next round and I am hopeful Mr. Clark and Mr. Manfred avoid a labor stoppage in the next negotiation. We do not have Cal to bail us out this time.

Josh Cookson (Katy TX): You've written that you mostly avoid the amateur draft. How do you go about getting clients with this strategy?

Joshua Kusnick: Referals. I live off referals and I still scout pro ball about as much as a scout would. If I see a guy I like, I talk to him. If he doesn't have an agent I have a chance. If he does, you never know.

Winston (Florida): Every so often a player (particularly a veteran) will go with no agent. When you see what these guys get in their contracts, do you think it tends to hurt (or help) their interests?

Joshua Kusnick: Im bias but it's bad bad bad. Players are part of a union so they have to consider how their contract impacts everyone else not just themselves, even if it's a minor consideration. An advisor/agent who is qualified tend to make things better. I mean it's why we have a job right?

William (Milwaukee): Congratulations on the success of Jeffress this year. What do you think made the difference between Toronto and now?

Joshua Kusnick: I was hoping someone would touch on this. Thank you first off. It has been a long road for JJ and I. I am so happy for him. Toronto put in a ton of work on Jeremy and helped to diagnose his medical ailments so for that Jeremy owes them a lot. On the field however, I do not think they ever fully bought into who he is as a player and focused on what he was not. The Brewers represented a great opportunity to go home and he's ran with it. With other clubs, if JJ had a bad outing he ran the risk of being outrighted, with Milwaukee he always felt he had some slack to figure things out on the field and it's made a world of difference.

Jackson (Jacksonville): How different are teams? For instance, if you saw just a transcript of negotiations between a player and a team, names all redacted, would you have any chance of telling which team was conducting the negotiations, or has the league become pretty homogenous?

Joshua Kusnick: I think any agent could tell. Every front office has their distinct personalities. For all the things teams work together to do, individual personalities always shine through. Great question.

Teddy (Baltimore): How specific are teams' instructions to your players for the offseason (what to eat where to go whether to play winter ball how much to work out what kind of work outs what kind of women to stay away from)

Joshua Kusnick: For the younger guys/minor leaguer they are given an offseason training plan they're expected to follow. Teams have final say if they can or cannot go to winter ball but it's the agents job to find the job. Personal lives are usually left alone until there is an issue but at the end of the day players have the right to be themselves. A player works for a ball club but the ball club doesn't own the player as a person. Thankfully the reserve clause is gone.

Jackson (Jacksonville): I liked what you wrote about the importance of makeup, but how would you define makeup? There are a lot of guys who seem like total jerks but are the right kind of jerks for the sport.

Joshua Kusnick: I think a guy that is singularly focused on making it to the big leagues, doing everything he can to make it, sacrificing a personal life in some instances, being a good teammate and good person are things I look for when judging makeup. Obviously skill can trump that but I tend not to work with those guys. Sometimes a great make up kid can change once he realizes he's better than everyone else skill wise but more often than not good people are good people regardless of circumstances.

Jackson (Jacksonville): And a follow up to the makeup question... do you think you define makeup differently (for your purposes) than a club defines makeup for its purposes?

Joshua Kusnick: ABSOLUTELY. I wish I could elaborate.

Superstar (Los Angeles): If Mike Trout had decided to go one year at a time (or Clayton Kershaw) when he hit free agency, how much would a team have paid for one year? It seems like a real argument could be made that he'd be worth $50M per year, considering how little risk the deal would carry, but would sticker shock allow a team to really go that far?

Joshua Kusnick: Eventually the market will dictate what a player is worth no matter the sticker shock. If a club has the resources they're going to spend money in most cases. In a vacuum is player x worth 50 mil? Probably. However, you have to take the human element in to account too. If you were 22 and someone offered you 150 million dollars regardless of performance or injury what do you do? On the flip side, whats the difference between 150 and 500 million dollars? 350 million dollars. I do not know if that's something I could walk away from.

Jon (New Jersey): there are have been estimates from clubs that half of offseason "rumors" are basically bs, totally without basis in reality. What's your estimate?

Joshua Kusnick: The media is a lot smarter than you give them credit for. I mean some writers have a bias towards agents that I think is obvious but they all work hard. If I were to call any of my writer friends and float something totally nonsensical I think they would be able to tell within two or three questions what I was trying to do. I think ball clubs get away with working the media more so than agents do since they're the ball club. The only time I think an agent holds a bit more sway is during free agency and during the draft.

Jason (Miami): How did you sign your first client?

Joshua Kusnick: I was 19 in Jupiter Florida and asked all the Palm Beach Cardinals bullpen pitchers if they had agents and how they hired them. One guy finally said if you buy me a glove Ill hire you. And thus a career was born.

DJ (Dallas): Just how hard is it to stand up in front of an audience and make them laugh?? Also, how hard is it to make a living as a comic?? Thanks!!

Joshua Kusnick: Being funny is easy. Making people laugh at what you think is funny is hard. I've had amazing jokes or what I thought to be amazing jokes totally bomb with one audience then kill with another. It really depends on the crowd. I left comedy for a lot of reasons but not having material wasn't one of them. As Kevin Goldstein reminds me, I should start off every interaction with "Did you know I performed with Mitch Hedberg?"

Mark (Newark): You recently wrote an article for the Huffington post voicing support for the LGBT movement in all sports. How do you feel baseball has dealt with this particular issue?

Joshua Kusnick: Thank you for reading that piece. It was a trip being on the huffpo website. I think Baseball is making great strides towards inclusion as evidence of their hire of Bill Bean. I think the sport is light years ahead of some of the other major sports but it is nice to see the progress that is being made overall by everyone in the sports world.

Alex (Anaheim): Franchise values are skyrocketing, so why are athletes still seen as greedy when their agents are negotiating contracts?

Joshua Kusnick: There has always been a disconnect with athletes. Tom Hard gets 20 million dollars to play Bane no one bats an eye. Clayton Kershaw cracks 30 mil for 162 game season and the whole world explodes. The market always dictates a players worth. If a team is willing to pay a certain amount of money for a player then it is what it is. I think culturally sports hit home closer than any movie could because at some point in time we all have played sports while not all of us have acted in a play or movie. As long as TV revenues keep going up players will continue to be compensated at the levels we see today if not more. If you told me some players would make what they make today when I started off 12 years ago I probably would not have believed you. However that is where we are now. A big reason we've gotten here is because the MLBPA has done an amazing job funneling those funds to active MLB players. Not international free agents (with a few exceptions), not the draft, just the players. League minimum is 500k now. When I started I believe it was 350. That's a huge jump in a very short amount of time. Lets hope a labor stoppage doesn't derail all of this because if that happens I believe the bubble will burst.

Dave (Pittsburgh): How often does familiarity play into deciding where a player goes? Will they stay where they're at even if it means say 10-20% less money?

Joshua Kusnick: For some players it's everything, look at Cliff Lee. For some players it means nothing, look at Robinson Cano. For me? Get what you can while you can. These players only get a limited window to have a career. And even though it is a huge sum of money, when it's gone it's gone. Now I'm not saying if team x is offering 100 million and team y is offering 105 million to uproot your family to take the money and run but if the team you're on is offering 35 million and team x is offering 50 million dollars to move your family in my estimation you take it. It's 15 million dollars there is almost no way to make that up in tax breaks or endorsements. I could go on and on discussing this topic but the short answer is it depends on the player and situation.

Jon (New Jersey): Do you think reporters get used by agents and clubs for floating rumors, do you think they know they're being used, and do they care that they're being used? Who "uses" them more, clubs or agents?

Joshua Kusnick: I think I answered this earlier but I think reporters know their role in this process. Without teams and agents(and players) they don't have a ton of inside information. If you dupe a reporter once and they find out you're done as an agent. You do not have to tell them anything if you choose but if you do talk make sure it's truthful. Peter King just got burned by the NFL and that isn't going over well. I think clubs have far more influence than agents since agents at least have the appearance of being inherently bias.

Kevin (Kansas): Drain you? Really?

Joshua Kusnick: Yes. Drain you. Best song on Nevermind. Best Song Period. Arguments can be made for any songs by Netural Milk Hotel, The Pixies, Jeff Buckley, and ESPECIALLY Elliott Smith. In order the best songs of all time 1.Drain You 2. Needle in the Hay 3. Holland 1945 4.Grace 5. Something Against You.

Kevin (Kansas): Drain you? Really?

Joshua Kusnick: Yes. Drain you. Best song on Nevermind. Best Song Period. Arguments can be made for any songs by Netural Milk Hotel, The Pixies, Jeff Buckley, and ESPECIALLY Elliott Smith. In order the best songs of all time 1.Drain You 2. Needle in the Hay 3. Holland 1945 4.Grace 5. Something Against You.

Joshua Kusnick: Thank you to everyone who participated in the chat. I enjoyed all of it especially the mocking of my beloved Nirvana, the question about my standup career, but specifically the insightful baseball questions everyone sent in. If anyone has any questions or suggestions for my next column I can be found @JoshuaKusnick on twitter or my email JoshuaKusnick@aol.com. Have a great time week everyone. J


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