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Agent Scott Boras holds a full house of unsigned high-profile clients. Will MLB teams pay up?

February 22nd, 2024

Agent Scott Boras responds to questions during a news conference at the Major League Baseball winter meetings in December in Nashville. (George Walker IV / Associated Press)

Scott Boras has represented baseball players since 1980. He’s negotiated untold billions for his clients. In fact, he’s negotiated contracts totaling more than $1 billion in a single month. The term “super agent” was coined for him.

So questioning the wisdom of five prominent free-agent clients of his still seeking contracts when their peers have reported to spring training is perilous. Teams eventually will cave to Boras’ demands, right? General managers will blink before Boras does, isn’t that the way it always ends?

Well, let’s replace “always” with “usually.” Whether misreading the market or through plain stubbornness, Boras clients have occasionally been forced to settle for substandard deals, a handful even after the regular season has commenced.

Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Matt Chapman and J.D. Martinez are unemployed. All are already millionaires many times over, and their ability to play baseball ensures that many more millions await. But do enough teams have the payroll and roster flexibility to accommodate expensive additions this close to opening day?

Rumblings in front offices in recent days cast doubt. But nothing said at this point can be separated from the bluffing and haggling and dickering central to such high-dollar negotiations.

In truth, the San Diego Padres need an outfielder and a designated hitter. Mike Trout said he’s been pressing owner Arte Moreno to bolster the Angels roster with a free agent or two. Boston Red Sox star Rafael Devers complained Tuesday that his team hasn’t upgraded enough.

Read more: Commentary: Angels are mired in free-agent purgatory. Why haven’t they signed any top players?

Bringing in slugger Jorge Soler and 37-year-old Pablo Sandoval recently might not be enough for the San Francisco Giants, who could use another starting pitcher. The Chicago Cubs are engaged in the most intense staring contest with Boras, attempting to whittle down the asking price for Bellinger or Chapman.

“These are extremely talented players that impact winning outcomes,” Boras wrote in a text to The Times. “If owners value winning as their primary goal for their cities and fans, they’ll continue to make every effort to acquire elite talents.”

It’s unlikely any team would pony up for more than one of the Boras quintet, so he needs five different suitors. Let’s examine the recent history of Boras’ clients who didn’t sign until spring training — or even the regular season — was underway.

“Collusion” was the whispered word in the spring of 2018 because teams seemingly agreed in some sort of unspoken mind meld not to overpay for free agents. But it wasn’t the 1980s all over again — when collusion was proved and supposedly eradicated.

The very same currently unsigned Martinez landed a five-year, $110-million contract with the Red Sox in mid-February of 2018. Starter Jake Arrieta, another Boras client, signed a three-year, $75-million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies in mid-March. The Padres overpaid for Boras client Eric Hosmer to the tune of eight years and $144 million.

Read more: MLB free agent tracker: Cody Bellinger and several starting pitchers still on the market

Left in the lurch was Mike Moustakas, who on March 9, 2018, begrudgingly settled for a one-year, $6.5-million deal with the Kansas City Royals even though he’d hit 38 home runs in 2017.

But less than two years later, Moustakas inked a four-year, $64-million contract with the Cincinnati Reds, the largest deal in franchise history. Boras, it seems, always gets the bread.

Need more proof? In 2019, top drawer Boras client Bryce Harper was unemployed until late February. No worries. Harper signed a landmark 13-year, $330-million contract with the Phillies.

Still, there are other Moustakas-like cautionary tales on the Boras ledger. Cy Young Award-winning starter Dallas Keuchel‘s experience in 2019 is the most memorable. The left-hander was coming off five excellent seasons with the Houston Astros and sought a nine-figure deal as a free agent. Keuchel ended up not signing until June, pitching the rest of the season for the Atlanta Braves for $13 million, and accepting a three-year, $55.5-million deal with the Chicago White Sox a year later.

Read more: Dodgers couldn’t make Cody Bellinger a star again. ‘Sometimes you just don’t have any answers’

Starter Jeff Weaver waited and waited for a long-term deal that never materialized and settled for one-year contracts. His brother, Jered Weaver, famously eschewed Boras’ advice and accepted a lowball five-year, $85-million contract extension with the Angels in August 2011 rather than become a free agent at the end of the season.

But when the Weaver brothers hung up their cleats for the last time, they’d earned a combined $140 million with Boras as their agent. Not a bad haul for a couple of guys from Simi Valley.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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