I just spent three days in Miami with Jeremy Jeffress and ran into several agents I knew. Many of them I quite like. A few I do not. One told me it’s "dumb" to tweet about clients because it makes it that much easier for other agents to "poach" my guys. I agree, but I feel like I am an outlier (or crazy, or both). I mean, I’m public enough that everyone knows my guys, and really I stopped caring in 2010. If guys are going to leave me, then they're going to leave. Twitter will not change that. I am going to promote the hell out of my clients and do right by all of them. I can’t live my life worrying about what other agents do.
I signed two new clients this week. I like to take space between signing players. I have 18 affiliated ball clients and four in indy ball trying to get back. Twenty-five is my absolute cap. If I manage more guys than that, I will fail hard. At peak volume I had 125 players. Not a typo. I was young, that was incredibly stupid, and it failed badly. I am grateful I survived my mistakes.
With that said, given how many clients I have now, 2016 is a recruiting year for me. I do not mean I’ll go out and steal clients from everyone under the sun. I don’t do that. (Have guys defected over to me from other agents? Of course. Do I think I'm more upright than the other agents who do it to me? Of course not.) I have one unique skill a lot of agents lack, and I think a lot of people in the game can attest to it: I can scout players all by myself. I don’t read prospect lists (sorry current employers), and I don’t care about draft status or signing bonuses. I only care about whether I get a good read on a player and—this is key here—that the makeup is plus-plus. I signed two players this week who are in very different boats.
The first player is in High-A. I won’t name him, because I don’t want to embarrass or shame his former agent. That is not what I am here to do. What made this hard is I knew the player since he was in JuCo, predating his relationship with his previous representation. We didn't really stay in touch but he trained with a lot of my clients and started to ask about me. I initiated nothing. Finally, when the player got to the FSL, we met once, went over everything, and I was hired. I am thrilled to work with said player, but morally it does sting having to do this to someone I quite respect and like very much.
It is so hard being "friends" with other agents because it makes it so much harder to do your job. I am writing this before I have phoned the agent. I feel in this case I absolutely have to call him, given our previous history as "friends." He’s never done anything too bad to me. He met with one of my premier clients years ago behind my back, and I took a guy back from him in 2007, but beyond that we've been very cordial to each other. Again, short of endorsing another group, I can say this guy is a class act.
Situations like this just suck. But ultimately I am a player advocate, and if I really feel like I can help (I can) I am going to do it, other agents be damned. I follow all the rules—and I am not just saying that; I value my MLBPA certification above almost all else, so I won’t jeopardize that for anyone. I had one player ask me to pay him money to represent him; I said no, and the guy is now a multimillionaire, having reached his arbitration years. I would have been rich, but I refuse to break the rules.
One of the first articles I wrote here at BP was about flexible morality. I think I was wrong. There are core tenets you just cannot compromise no matter how hard you want to bend. To do this job properly you need to know your stuff, scout hard, work hard, and do your damned job for your clients without learning at their expense
The second new client, I can name. I am now doing work for Josh Vitters. Josh Vitters, former no. 3 overall pick by the Cubs in 2007. Josh is working his way back to pro ball from the Atlantic League, playing for the Bridgeport Bluefish. I had Jaye Chapman, Tim Gustafsson, and Mike Antonini sign from that club, so it’s kind of my lucky charm team. Josh had not heard from his agent in some time. We shared several mutual friends (Steve Clevenger and Jaye Chapman both played with him on the Cubs), and we started to talk. I love a good story and I love a redemption story even more. When Jeremy Jeffress was with the Blue Jays and got optioned the first time, we had a choice to make: Go to Triple-A and spin the wheel or go back to Dunedin and start over. We chose option B and it has really paid off. JJ's situation clearly is the best job I have ever done in my career. With Vitters, I took him on for two reasons, neither of which had to do with his service time or his bonus. I did this because I scouted him and he is way too talented to not be a big leaguer some day. And I did it because, after speaking with him I really believed the fire was there. The makeup is plus-plus and the fire is back. He took 2015 off to rediscover that passion and it’s there.
From what I have heard he is hitting the ball hard—he’s got four homers, and 10 extra-base hits, in 93 at-bats—and it’s only a matter of time before he's signed to an affiliated ballclub. Time will tell, but I won’t quit until we get an answer. Res Ipsa Loquitor
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