For many fans, particularly in today’s internet-driven society, the baseball offseason can be almost as fun as the actual season. Nothing beats the real games, of course, but there is a very real amount of fun that comes from putting together your own offseason plan. You look at your favorite team’s current roster and play the next few months out in your head. What do you think they need? What would you be willing to give up in a trade? How much would you be willing to sign your target for? Since most of us know we don’t have the athletic ability to be a professional athlete, being a general manager is the next best thing, and this exercise allows us to play out that pipe dream.
This offseason, the Red Sox have a clear need for a bat in the middle of the lineup and there were two big-name batters who would be able to be easily fit into their lineup. Those players are Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez. Not only were both of those players solid fits (at least positionally — we can disagree on their merits as players) on the Red Sox roster, but they are also both represented by superagent Scott Boras.
The word “Boras” has become something of a dirty word, not only among Red Sox fans but among baseball fans as a whole. The thing about Scott Boras is that he is incredible at his job, and his job is to out-negotiate teams around the league and get the most money for his clients. Fans get wary when he represents players with whom the team is about to negotiate -- whether it be free agents or players coming up for extensions — because there’s a chance he outfoxes the team and gets his client more than the fans are comfortable paying. In short, he’s become the bad guy, but it’s time for that narrative to go away.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why this narrative exists and why the natural reaction is to cringe at the thought of Boras representing a favorite player or offseason target. Although we all have players we like more than others, the vast majority of us root for one team (the Red Sox, in our case) over anything else. Thus, we naturally align ourselves with the goals of the front office rather than the players. This is fine, and honestly the only way that makes sense. That being said, there’s a way to take this point of view while painting someone advocating for the player as anything other than “evil” or “the enemy.”
The simple truth is that Boras is just really, really good at his job. That job, of course, is to go out and make a boatload of money for his clients (and himself) at the cost of 30 ownerships groups across baseball. It’s true that this so-called battle for money is between billionaires and millionaires, so we’re not exactly talking about the highest of stakes, but I’d still say that at the end of the day Boras has himself aligned on the correct side of the battle.
Getting money for the players and away from the owners isn’t the only reason I find myself becoming more and more of a fan of Boras, either. Beyond the simple negotiations, it seems to me that the superagent has a solid grasp on what is right for the game and he’s not afraid to call anyone out if they go against that. Granted, much of this comes out of selfishness for both his clients and himself, but more often than not he’s on the correct side of things in this writer’s opinion. For example, he has lashed out against the new CBA and the new, harsher luxury tax penalties. These are the closest baseball has come to a hard salary cap and teams are clearly reacting in turn. We’ve seen classic high-payroll teams like the Dodgers and Yankees make their way below the threshold this offseason, something the Red Sox did last offseason. This, in turn, is an obvious way to suppress player salaries and it’s clearly working. This doesn’t even get into the harsher bonus pools for acquiring amateur talent both international and domestic. Boras also had no problem calling out the league for its inane decision to allow the Marlins to be bought by a group who would immediately dismantle them for purely financial reasons.
Again, though, I understand that these issues aren’t really at the forefront of concern for most fans. I would argue that the intricacies of how these rules affect players — particularly amateurs just turning pro — should be discussed more, but I am also realistic. At the end of the day most fans only care about the major leagues, and Boras represents a major hurdle. In Red Sox terms, he represents Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., both players who are hitting free agency in the near future. That means extension talks should be coming up, but Boras has a reputation as someone who will never negotiate for an extension. This is absolutely not true, as evidenced by recent extensions signed by fellow clients Stephen Strasburg and Adrian Beltre. Sure, he’s less likely to agree to a severely under-market extension, but again that’s his job and he’s really good at it. At the end of the day, if his clients want to sign an extension he’ll work towards that end and get them the best deal possible. If Bogaerts and Bradley don’t even enter negotiations, that’s because they didn’t want to, not because of him. (And if they don’t want to, that’s fine too.)
So, yes, this anti-Boras narrative is something that has increasingly been bothering me of late and with a lack of activity around the Red Sox I figured this was a good time to get on my high horse. My dream is for Boras to become the head of the MLB Players Union, as that way we could kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, Boras would get some power back to the players as a supreme negotiator with the players’ interests at heart. Additionally, he’d be out of the negotiating room for contracts and stop kicking the Red Sox’ ass. That’s probably not going to happen, and instead we’ll have to deal with him negotiating great contracts for his players. That, in turn, means that sometimes teams will be stuck with some long-term deals they may not want. Don’t blame that on Boras, though, as he’s just doing his job and getting the most money possible for his clients. Instead, let’s put the blame on the owners who are letting the contracts hamstring the team when, in just about every case, they have the money to dig themselves out of the hole if they really wanted to.