More on the agent via Bob Nightengale -
There are folks who dream of slipping away from the brutal New York winter to vacation in Mexico, or imagine they’re married to Miss America, or that they make so much money New York Yankees icon Derek Jeter is asking for a loan.
Welcome to the real world of Casey Close.
Close, a former All-America baseball player at Michigan who roomed with Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, who played 4 ½ years in the minor leagues after being drafted by the Yankees, and married Miss America 1989, hit the mother lode as a baseball agent this winter.
Close and his company, Excel Sports Management, negotiated $700 million in baseball contracts, the largest total during a single offseason in baseball history.
“This is the most enjoyable period I’ve ever had in the business,” said Close, 50, an agent since 1992. Close was reunited three years ago with his former co-workers from 22 years ago at IMG. He now is partners with Mark Steinberg – yes, Tiger Woods’ agent – along with Jeff Schwartz, who represents NBA stars such as Paul Pierce, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.
“It’s not so much the results,” Close said, “but the unique culture we have here. We’re having a blast.”
A little money doesn’t hurt.
Just applying the standard 4% fees alone, Close netted $28 million for his company in a three-month span.
“I told him I need a loan,” said Jeter, who has been represented by Close since he was 18, earning $253 million with the Yankees before he retires after this season. “He’s done a great job. But the thing about Casey is that he’s not someone who goes around flaunting that he negotiated all of these contracts.
“Casey understands that he has a job to do, and it’s not about him. It’s about doing what’s best for his clients. He’s always been that way.”
And, oh, how he ever had reason to brag. There were seven contracts this winter worth at least $100 million, and Close and his company negotiated four of them.
It all started, once again, with Jeter. Jeter, who played just 17 games last season, had a $9.5 million player option that Close turned into a one-year, $12 million deal.
Along came Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who received a seven-year, $215 million contract extension one year before free ageny, making him the highest-paid player in baseball, with an average salary of $30.7 million.
There were the month-long negotiations for Masahiro Tanaka that involved 15 clubs. The result was a seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees – the most lucrative deal signed by a Japanese player.
Then there was Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman’s eight-year, $135 million extension. Jason Heyward’s two-year, $13.3 million deal. And Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey’s six-year, $105 million extension.
Toss in another dozen players on one-year contracts, and voila! – you get nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars.
Dodgers starter Zack Greinke examined all of the contracts by his agent, and came to a conclusion.
“I think the best contract of all of them,” Greinke says, “was Jamey Wright’s contract.”
You mean the 39-year Dodger reliever who got a one-year, $1.8 million deal.
“Yeah, Greinke says, “it was his first major-league contract in nine years. So it’s got to be.”
Greinke actually represented himself in the 2012 season before conducting a search and hiring Close. He said he was swayed by Close’s integrity.
Then, Close got him a six-year, $147 million deal, a record at the time for a right-handed pitcher. What’s more, Greinke has an out close after the 2015 season, as does Tanaka after 2017 and Kershaw after 2018 – essentially giving his three top pitching clients their own markets.
This is another reason why Jeter is amazing. He hooks on with Close when the agent wasn’t even thirty years old yet. But, he picked a winner. That’s an ability to spot talent. Maybe Derek should be the Yankees next General Manager?