The Scott Boras show played nice with the Blue Jays. They’re after too many of his clients
CARLSBAD, CALIF.—There aren’t too many people in the game of baseball who can draw a bigger crowd than super-agent Scott Boras. Whenever the man has something to a say, a sea of reporters can be found steps away hanging on his every word.
Boras doesn’t make himself available for in-person interviews very often, but when he does it becomes a major event. He typically talks twice a year — at the annual general managers meetings in November, then a few weeks later at the winter meetings.
The scrums are unlike any other in the sport. He sets up shop in the corner of a hotel lobby or in a nearby courtyard, because Major League Baseball isn’t about to roll out the red carpet by setting up a stage for one of its biggest adversaries. What soon follows can only be described as the Scott Boras show.
Reporters from every beat gather to witness the spectacle firsthand, even if the teams they cover aren’t pursuing one of his clients. For his part, Boras never disappoints on entertainment value by arriving equipped with scripted one-liners he can’t wait to say in front of a camera. It has the look and feel of a late-night talk show, complete with the media providing the laugh track and occasional groan.
A few years ago, the Jays were one of his victims when his diagnosis was that the organization had a case of the “blue flu,” referring to their unwillingness to spend. Those comments eventually became water under the bridge after the Jays signed one of his clients (Hyun-Jin Ryu) and drafted another (Austin Martin) a few months later.
This season, the Jays are interested in several of his players, including middle infielders Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, possibly outfielder Michael Conforto and lefty Carlos Rodón as well.
With money on the table, Boras isn’t about to badmouth the Jays now. Instead, he saved most of his shots for the “competitive cancer” that has permeated the sport.
Boras opened Wednesday’s availability with a five-minute speech, railing against what he views as a “race for the bottom” where teams are tanking by trading away good players, or declining to sign them in the first place, to improve their draft position and increase their bonus pool allotment.
He pointed to Alex Anthopoulos and the Atlanta Braves as an example of just how bad things have gotten. Anthopoulos remade the World Series champions at the deadline with a slew of deals to get his team back in the race. Those moves, in Boras’s mind, came at the expense of others, with NL Central and AL Central teams propping up the Braves with a pair of trades for little in return.
The lengthy rant was clearly by design. With the collective agreement set to expire on Dec. 1, Boras was sending a message to players that draft reform must be on the table in the upcoming negotiations.
“This is the Easter Bunny delivering rotten eggs,” Boras proclaimed. “Every team says, ‘I need to do this because it’s my only option, knowing I can’t reach a (division title).’ So what do I do? I go and try to get something out of it.
“If it was (better) for them to win 75 or 88 games and they knew they had to strive to win draft picks, you would not see this type of conduct because … owners would have strong reasons to say, ‘I’m not giving you my core players because I’ve got to make sure that I am winning, and achieving the proper reward for winning in draft and development.’”
Boras estimated about 17 teams, barely more than half the league, are actively trying to win. The others are taking over the middle ground, setting themselves up for a mid-season sale to acquire prospects, while even more are in full-blown rebuilds with no regard for the standings.
There was a lot of truth in what Boras had to say, and it’s refreshing to hear someone talk openly without any fear of repercussions from the people sitting across the negotiating table. At the end of the day, though, he’s a salesman and his recent quotes — while valid — lacked a bit of context.
The absence of spending has been an issue for the last several years, but it doesn’t figure to be as big of a problem this winter. The Jays are just one of many teams with cash to burn.
After the labour portion of his scrum, Boras moved into the most important part of his job: marketing his clients.
He called Kris Bryant the “Sean Connery” of baseball because of his versatility, while Conforto was dubbed the “King of Queens” for his production in New York. Nick Castellanos was “Ol Saint Nick” waiting to see which teams interested in him have been “naughty or nice.”
When the topic of ace Max Scherzer came up, Boras said, “I think teams that are pursuing a championship are not pursuing the minimum. They’re taking it to the Max.” Say what you want about the man, but he does his homework and comes prepared.