Negotiation – The One-Bite-At-The-Apple Threat

The Dodgers and agent Scott Boras seem to be at an impasse.

They are negotiating Manny Ramirez’ 2009 major league baseball contract.

The team has offered a two-year deal, while Manny’s agent asserts it will take four or more to tango.

Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti is trying to avoid what is called, “negotiating against oneself.” If you’re the only or top bidder for something, the traditional negotiating playbook says:

(1) Wait for a counteroffer before sweetening your original offer.

(2) If you receive silence in return instead of a counteroffer, the other party will blink. If he has received no better offer than yours from a third party, he’ll have to deal with you, sooner or later, and accept yours.

(3) If you succumb to your impatience, or buckle under the pressure brought on by the approach of a deadline, such as the slated start of spring training, and you offer a better deal before receiving a counteroffer, you’ll make concessions for nothing.

In that case, you are bidding against yourself, and throwing away money.

Boras has heard all of this, and yet he’s acting as if he’s oblivious to the merit of Colletti’s position.

What Boras is tacitly threatening is this:

If the Dodgers do not sweeten the deal on their own, Ramirez will play for the first team that does improve on that offer, or for the highest bidder.

In other words, the Dodgers will have had one bite at the apple, and they may be denied a second chance to improve their offer, later.

But is that completely rational?

Not really, but who said negotiation is ever 100% reasonable, or predictable?

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