Agent change could set Jose Berrios up for a rich future with the Twins
MINNEAPOLIS — Loyalty is important to Jose Berrios. That's why it was so hard for him to switch his representation to Wasserman Media Group this week.
Melvin Roman of MDR Sports Management had shepherded the Twins' rising young ace from his senior year of high school in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, up through his selection with the 32nd overall pick and subsequent signing for a bonus of $1.55 million.
Roman, based in Puerto Rico and with a client list headlined by Yadier Molina and Jose Quintana, was there for Berrios when he debuted in the majors in 2016, kept his spirits up when he pitched to an 8.02 earned run average as a rookie and celebrated with him as he went a combined 25-18 these past two seasons, earning his first All-Star selection in July.
That loyalty ran both ways.
"That's why I was there for almost seven years with him," Berrios said. "Then something happened, and I changed agents."
Berrios, finishing up his age-24 season and still another full season away from his first crack at salary arbitration, did not elaborate on what caused him to seek different representation. But he told the Pioneer Press in March he was hopeful of working out a multiyear extension with the Twins, who instead signed him for just one year at $570,000.
"It's a business decision," Berrios said. "We will still be friends. I just moved on."
Wasserman has a deep client list of big leaguers, including the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Chase Utley, Kenley Jansen, Trevor Bauer, Yu Darvish and Twins reliever Addison Reed. Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez, who is married to the sister of Berrios' wife, the former Jannieliz Marquez, is a Wasserman client as well.
As Berrios, a father of three young children, pondered his professional future, he eventually was pulled in the direction of a larger agency. Nick Chanock, Wasserman's senior vice president for baseball, will work directly with Berrios.
"I met them three years ago because my brother-in-law (Baez) is a client," Berrios said. "This year we met formally twice, and that's why I signed with them."
The official move came Monday, Sept. 3, but Berrios said the whole process took more than three months.
"I was thinking about it from almost the beginning of the season," he said. "I'm so excited to keep moving forward. (Wasserman) has a lot of good stuff to help me be better in the future. They're going to help me with my workout routine, my nutrition, everything. That's why we moved."
Reed did not help recruit Berrios to Wasserman, but when his clubhouse neighbor shared the news, Reed was effusive in praising the decision.
"I told him he'll love it," Reed said. "There's not a better group to go to war with than those guys at Wasserman. He put himself in a pretty good position."
Reed, who signed a two-year, $16.75 million deal with the Twins in January, recalled his second year of arbitration eligibility, when he and the New York Mets settled for $5.3 million before the 2016 season.
"We settled 45 minutes before the hearing," Reed said. "I spent a lot of time with everybody from Wasserman. They were all part of it. We had a little war room set up at the Vinoy Hotel in (St. Petersburg, Fla.). There were probably about 10 to 15 guys from Wasserman that had all sorts of information on me. We were talking about how we were going to go about the whole case."
Reed, who broke in as a Chicago White Sox closer and had 105 career saves by that point, was coming off a 2015 season in which he had settled back in to a setup role for the Arizona Diamondbacks and later the Mets, who reached their first World Series in a decade and a half.
"That was kind of a turning point," Reed said. "I was always close with those guys at Wasserman, but going through that, seeing how prepared they were and just spending every minute of the day with them, that was the game changer. That's when I realized these guys definitely had my best interests. I know personally how much work they put into my case and how much time they invested in me."
Whether this week's switch will make a Berrios extension more or less likely this offseason remains to be seen, but it's sure to be a running conversation throughout the winter.
The fact Wasserman has done so much recent business with the Twins, both on the geographically driven Reed deal and a nine-figure Darvish negotiation that ultimately fell short, certainly can't hurt. Darvish grew close with Twins general manager Thad Levine during their Texas Rangers days, and more good will was built up with last year's midseason reclamation project of another Wasserman client, Bartolo Colon.
"It could be a key piece for (an extension) in the future," Berrios said through a team-issued translator, "but right now I'm just focusing on my portion, my part that I can do on the field. It's the first time I've changed agents, but this move was a good thing."
Corey Kluber's five-year, $38.5 million extension (plus two club options) remains the record for a pre-arbitration pitcher deal, but he was coming off his first Cy Young Award at the time. Add in five-year pre-arb deals for Jon Lester ($30 million guarantee), Madison Bumgarner ($35 million), Yovani Gallardo ($30.1 million), Trevor Cahill ($30.5 million), and the average outlay for that group is $32.8 million.
Of course, the Twins might prefer to point to five-year deals for lefties Matt Moore ($14 million) or Martin Perez ($12.5 million plus three club options) while acknowledging the six-year deals signed by Chris Sale ($45 million plus a club option) and Julio Teheran ($32.4 million plus a club option).
Somewhere within that range lies the proper and fair extension for Berrios, who has done nothing but impress the Twins from the moment he signed at age 18.
"He has unlimited potential and value if he stays healthy," Reed said. "There's no questioning his work ethic. That isn't going to change. It's almost unthinkable that a guy can continue to do as much stuff as he does. It's just incredible to see."
There was the morning after a night game in Kansas City earlier this season when Reed left the team hotel to get coffee at 8 a.m., only to bump in Berrios, in full workout gear, chugging through the hilly Plaza district.
This spring, at the Fort Myers, Fla., complex where a number of Twins players stay, Reed and his family were out for an evening walk when he glanced through the window of the workout room and saw Berrios.
"He's dripping sweat, working out again after a full workout at the facility earlier that day," Reed said. "His nickname is 'La Makina' for a reason. That's The Machine."
Reed shook his head and smiled.
"A guy like him shouldn't be stressing, shouldn't be worrying about what's going to happen in the whole arbitration process," Reed said. "Hopefully he's not stressing. I think he's a smart enough kid to know if he keeps on doing what he's going to do, there's no telling how much he could earn or how long he's going to play. I mean, it's limitless."