The Blue Jays have had a contemptuous relationship with super agent, Scott Boras, in recent years. It might be worth trying to resolve their differences in the next couple of seasons.
Despite the fact that the Blue Jays spent a pretty big chunk of money over the last few years, there are still several people around the game that would consider the franchise to operate on the cheap side. Consider super-agent Scott Boras to be near the top of that list.
Boras is known as one of, if not the best agent in baseball, whether he’s well liked in all circles or not. His job isn’t to be liked by anyone but his clients, and based on the amount of money he has secured for them over the years I’m sure there are plenty of satisfied customers. There’s a reason he has some of the biggest names in the game on his roster.
When it comes to Boras and the Blue Jays, the relationship hasn’t been in the best of spots in recent years. In early November he referred to the franchise as having the “Blue Flu”, pointing out that their big drop in home attendance was the result of ownership’s unwillingness to spend on free agents. Naturally, Boras has a large bias in those statements, but there is at least some truth to what he’s saying.
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There are a couple of ways to look at the situation. The Blue Jays opened the 2017 season with the 5th highest payroll in baseball at just over 177 million, which is nothing to scoff at. On the flip side, it was just the third highest total in their AL East division, with the Yankees paying just over 201 million, and the Red Sox flipping a bill of 199 million plus. Last season, the Blue Jays lowered their number significantly by trading away veterans like J.A. Happ, Josh Donaldson, and others, while the Red Sox won the World Series while spending 222 million and change. You can see why some fans and writers see a direct correlation.
Boras obviously sees that connection as well, and while he’s a smart enough man to understand that the Blue Jays need to do a rebuild of sorts, he’s not the type to buy that things need to be stripped down to the nuts and bolts. When you’re in a market the size of Toronto’s, especially as the only team in Canada and with a rich ownership group like Rogers Media, there’s an argument that the Blue Jays should be spending more money and obviously Boras is going to push that narrative whenever he can.
"“They’ve lost near a third of their fan-base due to the ‘Blue Flu’ of not bringing attractive players that their fans find interesting to their market.”"
Ultimately any agent is going to pursue the most money in a favourable market for their client in free agency, and Boras will ultimately keep that as his number one goal in any negotiation. However, I wonder if there is any value in the Blue Jays working toward repairing the relationship with him, specifically with an eye on the future.
Right now his only significant Blue Jay client who they may want to re-sign would be Aaron Sanchez, who will be a free agent in two years time. A lot will depend on Sanchez’s performance over the next couple of seasons, but let’s say he finds his way back to his 2016 form when he was the AL ERA leader and one of the top starters in baseball. If he was able to stay healthy enough to find that form his value would skyrocket. Maybe the Blue Jays wouldn’t want to play in that deep end with a pitcher they’ve experienced an injury history with first hand, but would Boras write them off early if they were interested? What about this offseason with another client of his in Dallas Keuchel, who the Jays have been rumoured to have interest in.
Again, Boras would ultimately pursue the best term/dollar combination, and the Blue Jays have control over that sort of thing. However, things could be a little more difficult for them in terms of extension talks, or even in their exclusive negotiating window. He’s never been known to be an agent to favour an extension for his clients anyway, but it’s hard to imagine him encouraging Sanchez to stay in advance of becoming an outright free agent, or maybe at all.
The obvious solution to repairing this relationship with Boras would be to sign one of his clients to a big money contract, but I don’t think we should expect the Blue Jays to pursue anyone like Bryce Harper, but it’s possible they could make a serious offer for Keuchel or a Gio Gonzalez type, all Boras clients. They could also make sure to handle the Troy Tulowitzki situation with as much dignity for the player as they can, especially if the veteran is healthy enough to be on the active roster next season.
At 66 years old, Boras won’t be around the game forever, but for the time being he still has a lot of influence. I have a feeling he’s going to be around and still going strong by the time the Blue Jays are ready to spend serious money supplementing their young roster in a few years too, and it wouldn’t hurt if the game’s biggest agent wasn’t talking smack about you in his end of year presser.