Posted on February 8, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Everyone seems to be chiming in on baseball’s slow free agent market. In recent days, a war of words has developed between Major League Baseball and its players. Last week, agent Brodie Van Wagenen got things started with a suggestion of collusion among the 30 owners. Earlier this week, union chief Tony Clark expressed his disappointment at what he calls a “race to the bottom.” Naturally, it was only a matter of time until power agent Scott Boras added his two cents on the situation.
Boras is the agent of several of the top free agents who remained unsigned, most notably J.D. Martinez, Jake Arrieta, and Eric Hosmer. That gives him first-hand knowledge regarding negotiations that have taken place between players and teams this winter. Boras says he isn’t surprised at the slow market, and he remains confident that team owners will eventually give his clients the offers he feels they deserve.
“I’m not ready to evaluate anything because of the market delay,” says Boras. “You have to let the market be a market before you can evaluate it. I believe that every good owner in the game wakes up and says there’s an opportunity that exists today that didn’t exist yesterday. Regardless of what the date on the calendar is, if it’s good business, you should do it.”
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However, Boras’ optimism may be misplaced. With the start of spring training less than a week away, the market is no longer developing. Whatever offers teams have made to free agents, they are unlikely to get any better. Obviously, this year’s free agent market has not unfolded as usual. But at this point in the year, most teams are looking for good deals. They are not looking to pay top dollar for unsigned players.
“These owners are captains of industry. They’re smart people,” explains Boras. “They’re going to look at it and say, ‘If I get ahead of my competitor and increase my probability of winning and I increase my ability to attract fans, my TV ratings, my playoff opportunities, and my (regional sports network) potential for the future, I’m going to go out and get somebody that’s still there because it’s going to provide all those positives for me.”
Boras believes that several major events held up the free agent market this winter. First, there was the race to sign Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani. Then there was the ongoing fire sale by teams like the Miami Marlins in a rather active trade market. He says the time is finally right for there to be more movement on the free agent front.
“Let’s allow the ships to get in from their quest in the ocean,” said Boras. “They went all the way to Japan (for Ohtani). Then they stopped at sea to pick up the sunken ship in Florida. Eventually, they’re going to get to their residential docks, and they can evaluate what they want to do to be adequately fulfilled for their journey at sea for the season.”
Of course, both Boras and the Players Union are setting up training facilities for players to stay in shape if they aren’t signed by the start of spring training. If Boras were confident that his clients would be signed soon, he wouldn’t be bragging in the press about the facilities his clients have at their disposal.
“Boras Corp has two sport fitness institutes with diamonds, cages and weight facilities,” he says. “We have resources and staffing to make sure our players are prepared when they reach agreements.”
What Boras still doesn’t realize is that he’s part of the problem. He has misinterpreted the market for most of his top clients, which is a big reason why the market has been so stagnant. The offers that Boras believes are coming are not going to come, even for players like Martinez, Arrieta, and Hosmer. Until Boras realizes that, those players and many others will remain unsigned.