The Blue Jays haven’t always had the best relationship with super-agent Scott Boras, but they may have to play nice if they want a top starting pitcher from the free agent market.
Over the last couple of decades, the most significant name around MLB free agency hasn’t been a player. If you ask me, the biggest player in that world would be Scott Boras, baseball’s biggest player agent.
Boras has already negotiated over 800 million dollars worth of contracts for his clients that include Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon, and if the Blue Jays want to improve their starting rotation through free agency, they’re going to have to go through Boras in order to do it.
As things stand, two of the three top remaining starting pitchers on the free agent market are represented by Boras’ agency, with the third being Madison Bumgarner, who is highly unlikely to land in Toronto. That leaves Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel, both of whom have been linked to the Blue Jays throughout the off-season, at least in terms of interest from Ross Atkins and his staff.
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Boras has never been afraid to take his clients late into the winter without a contract, but this year has been a different story, perhaps due to the way the market played out over the past two go-arounds. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Ryu and Keuchel found new homes before the calendar flips to 2020, and according to what Boras is saying in the media, it could happen sooner than later.
Whether or not the Blue Jays end up being serious players for the pair of lefties remains to be seen, but at least they appear to be getting along with Boras better these days. Last winter, Boras coined the term “Blue flu” when talking about the Blue Jays and their lack of engagement with free agency, pointing to the size of their market and the ability the club should have to spend. Naturally Boras is going to try and goad the Blue Jays into spending money on his clients, but he certainly had a point.
He met with them again back in November, and thankfully the things he said to the media after that session were a lot more positive. From an article from Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi on November 13th:
"“I think the spirit with which they want to return the franchise to where I think it should be, (it) is more likely we have a common thought about that today,”"
That’s certainly a different tone than he had last season, and one has to hope that those attitudes are present at the negotiating table right now. If we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s entirely possible that Boras is using the Blue Jays as leverage to drive up the price of his client’s next contracts. That said, he’s also been one to encourage his players to take the best offer, and there is a lot to sell someone on the future in Toronto right now.
It might sound silly that an agent would have that much power, but if there’s anyone in major sports that does, it would be Boras. Having him consider Toronto as a legitimate option is important, as he usually represents most of the premium free agents on an annual basis. As for the immediate future, he’s representing both Ryu and Keuchel, two of the top pitchers left on the free agent board, and a pair that has caught the interest of the Blue Jays.
At the end of the day, even if he’s the best agent in the game, all Boras can do is try to squeeze out the best offers he can for his players, and they ultimately have to make the decision from there. We’ll see if he’s been able to convince the Blue Jays to make the best offer for Ryu or Keuchel, but at least this time he appears to be taking the discussions seriously.