In addition to being a baseball agent, Scott Boras is a spin doctor, a psychologist and a salesman.
It’s mid-November, hunting season for Boras and his clients, and the agent is parading through the hotel lobby of the MLB GM meetings in Orlando, Florida, media in tow. They are hanging on his every word. Why? Because Boras always has a controversial word for the 30 MLB owners.
Make no mistake, Boras’ words may sound off-the-cuff but they are measured and meticulous. He has carefully crafted his message to push one team while pulling another; cajole this team and admonish that one; publicly poking and prodding teams to make the next move, all for the financial gain of his client and company.
From a distance it is hard to maintain a straight face when you consider the irony that all of this baseball drama is being spewed from the friendly confines of Walt Disney World, a hop, skip and a jump from Disney’s signature attraction labeled “The Most Magical Place On Earth.”
Of course, this is all a dress rehearsal for the real thing, the MLB Winter Meetings next month (December 10-14). That’s when the real action starts. Free agents sign. Players are traded. Rosters are constructed.
You know this. I know this. All 30 MLB franchises know this. But that doesn’t stop the circus, and Boras, its ringleader, from coming to Orlando.
The 2017 Houston Astros ranked 15th ($185m) in team payroll and won the World Series. In 2016, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series and ranked 5th in team payroll ($188m) and the Kansas City Royals, 2015 World Series champs, ranked 16th in team payroll ($113).
Trends in recent years show competitive teams are getting younger and more financially conservative. The model is to adopt patience build a competitive farm system with a vision to creat long-term success.
Boras doesn’t like this, at all. Their are fewer suitors willing to pay free agents $100 million over four or five years. In his Q & A With reporters last week Boras attempted to turn the free agent market into a game of Monopoly with a twist.
“The team cutting payroll is treating their family where they’re staying in a neighborhood that has less protection,” he said. “They’re not living in the gated community of Playoffville … the reality of it is there is less firemen in the bullpen. There’s less financial analysts sitting in the press boxes. The rooms in the house are less, so obviously, you’re going to have less franchise players when you move to that 12-room home in Playoffville.”
Boras’ message was a mixture of fear and fun, suggesting teams unwilling to pay can expect to be out of the playoff picture for years to come. He used his client Eric Hosmer as an example.
“He’s Playoffville Federal Express,” Boras told the scrum of media. “He can be overnight delivery, one-day, two-day, three-year, whatever. He fits every franchise.”
Hosmer is 28, in the prime of his career, and this is his opportunity to get paid. He has spent his seven-year MLB career with the Kansas Cory Royals, compiling a .284 batting average and four Gold Glove awards at first base. Is he worth the $100 million (or more) he will be demanding? That is negotiable — and Boras’ greatest fear.