CARLSBAD, Calif. – Baseball’s most influential agent said the sport was the victim of a “competitive cancer” caused by teams unloading veterans to accumulate draft picks and said the Atlanta Braves’ World Series title was a direct result of others' tanking.
Speaking Wednesday at the general managers' meetings, Scott Boras backed the demands of the players’ association for changes in the collective bargaining agreement that expires Dec. 1. The sport is braced for a lockout that would be baseball’s ninth work stoppage but first since 1995.
“This is the Easter Bunny delivering rotten eggs,” he said in front of Bob's Steak & Chop House at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.
“Every team says, ‘I need to do this because it’s my only option, knowing I can’t reach a divisional crest, I can’t get in the playoffs.’"
Atlanta was 51-53 when it obtained outfielders Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler along with reliever Richard Rodriguez in four swaps in the hours before the July 30 trade deadline. It also added outfielder Joc Pederson from the free-falling Cubs on July 15.
“We have seen the championship in 60 days,” Boras said. “The rules allow them to be a less-than-.500 team at Aug. 1 and add four players, five players from teams that no longer wanted to compete, and for very little cost change the entirety of their team and season.
"And we saw this unfold to the detriment of teams that create at vast expense, planning and intellect and won over 100 games. In doing all this, we have now created an understanding that a fan would not know who the true team is until, frankly, the trading deadline.”
Rosario was NL Championship Series MVP and Soler became World Series MVP as the Braves won their first title since 1995.
“The Atlanta Braves are the Atlanta Braves because tanking teams said, ‘I want to get to the bottom to get those draft picks,’" Boras said.
Teams draft in the reverse order of their regular-season record.
Boras blames behavior on restraints imposed on amateur spending in 2012. The caps came as the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros undertook rebuilds that resulted in World Series titles, informing decisions by other clubs to tear down.
Boras represents many top draft picks and has lost revenue because of the system of draft signing pools that no team has exceeded by more than 5%.
“It created an incentive for the race to the bottom, because now we have half the major league teams at some time during the season being non-competitive, trading off their players, making the game and the season very different than what it was intended to be, and that was having an incentive to win every game that you play,” he said.
Boras represents five of the eight men on the union’s executive subcommittee: Zack Britton, Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, Max Scherzer and Marcus Semien, who switched his agency to Boras last month. Jason Castro, Francisco Lindor and Andrew Miller are the other members.
Castro, at $3.5 million, is the only one of the eight who earned under $12 million this year. Just 86 players among 1,695 who played in the major leagues this season earned $12 million or more as of Aug. 31, including prorated shares of signing bonuses.
Ever loquacious, Boras interjected colorful metaphors for his clients and possible destinations.
— On free agenty slugger Nick Castellanos: “I kind of advised all of you like two years ago, St. Nick was going to bring a lot of presents, and frankly, we’re just going to sit back and see what teams have been naughty and nice.”
— He compared Kris Bryant to actor Sean Connery, saying “he has Bond-like abilities to create a great middle of the lineup. He's always red-hot in the hunt for October. He's an extraordinary gentleman and is in a league of his own.”
— Former Mets outfielder Michael Conforto had become the “King of Queens,” Boras said, but “in free agency now, he’s kind of like the ace of many GMs’ hearts." Mets president Sandy Alderson responded: “Those comments I would characterize as a blowhard in a house of cards.”
— For Semien: “He kind of brings a charge in the batter’s box and kind of, you know, he insulates the middle infield. So he’s truly a modern day Semien conductor, and we all know there’s a shortage of chips worldwide.”
— Shortstop Corey Seager is “like a rock,” Boras said. “Of course, his parents knew this. That's why they named him Corey.”
— On the Mets, whose search for a general manager has dragged on: “Well, there are 29 teams that have their big carts out there, and they’re filling them up now. Now, probably when you look at the old adage, ‘What’s upsetting the big apple cart?’ And it might be that it’s rather unattended at the moment. I'm sure that will be there, and we know that in our shopping malls, we're very welcoming of the big apple cart.” Said Alderson: “So he's changed the supermarket metaphor to something vehicular, I guess, and I'm not really prepared to respond. I had a great answer for the supermarket question, but I'll keep it to myself.”
Asked if New York was a stable organization, Alderson said: “I think we're working toward a stable enviornment.”
— Boras endorsed Commissioner Rob Manfred’s proposal to expand the postseason from 10 teams to 14. “The econonics would say there’s more TV revenues for more playoffs. The question is, where do those revenues go and how are they used?”
— He is against management’s proposal of a $100 million payroll floor. “They give you the rowboat of the minimum, but the tidal wave of the ceiling on the maximum just drowns the whole concept.”
— On the possibility of a free agent spending spree in February or March at the end of a potential signing freeze that might accompany a lockout: “Talent is the steak, and I don't really care what time dinner is.”
AP Baseball Writer Jake Seiner contributed to this report.
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