Super-agent Scott Boras is no stranger to the spotlight, but his unique role in the sport is in some respects more visible now than ever before. With free agency continuing to move at a remarkably slow pace, Boras provided some interesting comments on the matter to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag.
As the most recognizable agent to MLB fans, and the advisor to many of this winter’s best free agents, Boras is one of the most notable characters in the hot stove world. He has also long drawn ire for his non-apologetic efforts at maximizing the earnings of his clients. Most recently, in a rather surprising turn, a league statement even took a passive-aggressive swap at Boras (via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports).
So, is Boras to blame for the slow pace of free-agent signings? Not in his own view. In addition to repeating his clever line to Passan — “I wouldn’t blame the baker if the flour doesn’t show up” — Boras says the pace of signings “has little to do” with him. Neither does Boras seem to believe the players are simply asking for too much in negotiations. MLB revenue has skyrocketed, he notes, and free agents are “just seeking what owners have done before.”
Rather, Boras suggests, this is about whether — or, really, when — MLB teams recognize they need to add pieces to win. Despite the worry in many quarters that a rush of contracts could come with reduced paydays for free agents, Boras says he is not concerned. Once the rest of the league realizes it has work to do to in keeping pace with the Astros — the most complete team in baseball, in his view — they’ll come calling.
This, perhaps, is the key quote to understand his view of things:
“Time is not a function of the market; ability to pay and demand are. The timing is not disturbing because the demand and the ability to pay are still evident.”
Of course, Boras is mindful of the need for a contingency plan. If teams “do not compete” — for free agents and, inextricably in Boras’s presentation, the World Series — “and instead choose to profit,” he says, then the player’s side “will have to address the system.” That comment is open to interpretation, but it surely does suggest that Boras feels he has potential avenues of redress if his clients are not able to find contracts at what he deems a market rate.
Perhaps what’s most notable about the viewpoint here is the fact that Boras continues to counsel patience while maintaining focus on the market fundamentals. Anxiety isn’t a problem for his clients, says Boras, who perhaps in some sense is advising other players and their representatives not to panic. Drawing attention to the leaguewide cash position is no doubt also an important element of a nascent PR strategy, should it be needed.
As Passan argues, there may well be some broader forces shifting the ground under foot. But as Boras suggests, we don’t yet know whether the market results will suggest a cause for broader concern. For the time being, timing aside, “demand and the ability to pay are still evident.” And regardless, surely, the players will be served best by holding the line as best they can.
In any event, the stage is set for a fascinating few weeks as we wait to see when and how the standoff is resolved. Boras, no doubt, will be at the center of the proceedings. There’s plenty more to absorb in Heyman’s post, including Boras’s thoughts on player aging and the oft-noted fact that some of his clients have signed late. You’ll want to read it in its entirety for the full effect.