Scott Boras, who represents the top free agent target of the Boston Red Sox, claims that teams are “murdering” the upcoming season by failing to compete.
While Boston Red Sox fans are dying for baseball season to begin after a seemingly endless winter, one prominent player agent claims the season is being killed before it begins.
Scott Boras represents several of the top remaining free agents, including Red Sox target J.D. Martinez. The lack of movement on the market has been just as frustrating for the players as it has been for fans. Boras pins the blame for this free agent freeze on the owners, who in his mind aren’t bothering to be competitive.
He went as far as to say that teams are intentionally “murdering” the upcoming season by not signing the available star free agents, which he sees as a clear indication that they don’t care about winning.
Leave it to Boras to make dramatic analogies.
The point he’s trying to make is that there is plenty of available talent on the market who could help any team improve their chances of winning. If they aren’t interested in improving their roster then they must not be interested in competing for a World Series title.
This is essentially a more complex and fairly odd way of accusing owners of collusion to hold down free agent salaries. It’s a theory that has been floated by other agents and players this winter who feel that teams are collectively low-balling free agents in order to reduce payrolls across the league. It’s a concept that, while gaining momentum, remains ludicrous.
There are a number of factors contributing to the slow free agent market, none of which are nefarious plots by owners.
The most glaring reason revolves around the steeper luxury tax penalties in the new collective bargaining agreement. MLB doesn’t have a hard salary cap yet most teams are treating the tax threshold as one because the penalties for repeat offenders simply aren’t worth paying.
The players agreed to this CBA knowing full well that it would curtail spending by large market teams who have more incentive than ever to reign in their checkbooks to avoid the tax. Now these same players are suddenly surprised when teams aren’t driving a Brinks truck to their front door?
Even the usual suspects in the free agency game have been uncharacteristically quiet. The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees have both been active in the trade market but have mostly stayed out of free agency as they aim to cut costs to duck the tax. Take those big spenders out of the market and it leaves fewer teams who can afford the hefty salaries the top free agents are demanding.
The Red Sox are the only team that has shown a desire to go over the tax this year after they reset the penalties by getting under the threshold in 2017. They have an offer on the table for Martinez, who has been sitting on his hands waiting for another team to top that offer so that Boston can counter with an even more lucrative one. Except that next offer never came. What are the Red Sox supposed to do, bid against themselves?
Martinez and Eric Hosmer, both represented by Boras, have turned down deals this winter that combine to be worth over $265 million. Yet Boras complains that teams aren’t willing to spend any money.
Are there teams trimming their payroll with no intention of competing for a playoff spot next season? Sure, look no further than Derek Jeter‘s Miami Marlins as Exhibit A. There are always going to be rebuilding teams in any sport who aren’t going to dive into free agency. For many teams, adding an expensive free agent or two isn’t enough to launch them into the postseason. It’s in their best interest to bide their time when it comes to spending, focusing on building through the draft in the meantime. They may not be trying to win now but it’s their best avenue to improving in the long run. Nobody wants to be stuck in mediocrity. This is nothing new.
More from Red Sox News
- Red Sox Nation deserves far more from Fenway Sports Group
- Bizarre trade deadline comes back to haunt Red Sox after Nathan Eovaldi departure
- Red Sox’ Moneyball-style offseason continues with Corey Kluber contract
- Rich Hill’s Red Sox departure puts him within striking distance of unique MLB record
- Red Sox offseason takes another nasty hit with Nathan Eovaldi departure
Small market, as well as many mid-market teams, can’t afford to risk shelling out nine-figure contracts for free agents. If the deal backfires it can cripple the franchise for years. Those teams were never going to be in the hunt for the top free agents. This is also nothing new.
This is basic economics – supply and demand. The supply of quality free agents outweighs the demand from teams that have the need, roster space and payroll flexibility to afford them. Boras and his clients have failed to recognize this shift and adjust their expectations accordingly, instead focusing on comparing their worth to what other players previously received in free agency under entirely different market conditions.
Allowing the season to begin with so many star players sitting on the sidelines is bad for baseball. It means fielding an inferior product, which risks pushing fans away from the game at a time MLB is already struggling to hook younger generations of fans.
In this context, the game is being “murdered” by the lack of free agent movement but it’s not the owners who are at fault. It’s Boras and his unrealistic expectations holding the gun.